Spring football is in the books for Mississippi State. Over the next few weeks I’ll breakdown the team by position and give my evaluations bases on what I saw this spring.
First up will be the quarterbacks. Unlike most of the Southeastern Conference the Bulldogs have its starting signal caller clearly identified. Rising junior Dak Prescott will get his first opportunity at being the full-time starter this fall.
Prescott started seven of the 11 games in which he played in last season leading the team in both rushing and passing in 2013. The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder from Haughton, La., showed remarkable leadership this spring with the whole team on his shoulders. He is the unquestioned leader of a team that believes in him unlike any other quarterback I have seen during my team covering the Bulldogs.
We all know what Prescott can do running the football and the coaches do as well so very rarely was he allowed to tuck the ball and run this spring. After all, the only question concerning Prescott at this point in his career is can he stay healthy?
Prescott worked on his passing and made smarter decisions slinging the football around. Interceptions were rare this spring and I doubt there will be many (if any) more games like against South Carolina last year when he was picked off three times.
I’ve watched Prescott evolve since his junior year of high school and it is remarkable how humble he has stayed as the spotlight continues to get brighter. That is definitely a good sign for MSU fans. He’s just a likeable guy who overcame a lot of adversity last season and still performed at a caliber few quarterbacks have in Starkville.
The future is definitely bright for Prescott if the Bulldogs can manage to keep him on the field in the fall. The crazy thing to think is Prescott was originally supposed to be the back-up to Dylan Favre this coming up season had thing gone the way the coaches had recruited.
A lot was asked of Damian Williams as a true freshman last year. Injuries to Prescott and departed senior Tyler Russell forced the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder from Metarie, La., onto the field before he was necessarily ready, including clutch situations late in the season.
But despite his limited experience, Williams performed admirably in a potential game-winning drive in the fourth quarter against Alabama, won the Arkansas game in overtime with a 25-yard touchdown run and kept the Bulldogs in the game for three-plus quarters in the Egg Bowl.
Williams carried that confidence into the spring where he seemed much more comfortable in the offense. He knew his playbook and where he wanted to deliver the football each time he dropped back to pass.
Williams saved his best performance for last completing 21 of 32 passes for 347 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in the spring game. Since he has the same style as Prescott, the two should be interchangeable in the Bulldogs offense if need be next season without disrupting the flow.
State had the luxury of having a third scholarship quarterback in spring camp this year in true freshman Nick Fitzgerald. I say luxury because last spring the Bulldogs had only Russell healthy to go through drills.
Fitzgerald graduated high school early and began practicing when Mississippi State was preparing for the Liberty Bowl in December. Not much was known about the 6-foot-5, 215-pound sleeper prospect other than he played in an option offense in Richmond Hill, Ga., as a one-year starter at quarterback.
But Dan Mullen saw something in Fitzgerald than not many other coaches did and signed him. Reminds me a lot of how Mullen discovered and signed a fellow by the name of Alex Smith at Utah.
Fitzgerald appears to have adapted well to the college weight program having shown up for spring practices much thicker in his upper and lower body than he was in December.
Even though he played in a high school option offense, this kid can sling it. Many thought of Fitzgerald as an afterthought with the Bulldogs also signing 6-foot-7 southpaw Elijah Staley in the 2014 class. But after seeing him play and factoring in the extra bowl/ spring practices Fitzgerald is getting it will be hard for Staley to catch up to him before the close of fall camp.
Fitzgerald might run the read-option better than any of the quarterbacks currently on the roster.