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Prescott has emerged as a legitimate Heisman contender.


Who’s Dakota Prescott?

Simple Answer: He’s the 6’2, 230-pound quarterback who led his team to victory over perennial power the LSU Tigers this past Saturday. Their first victory over a top-10 opponent in 14 years and first win in “Death Valley’ since 1991.

Real Answer: Dak, as known by most, is the “program-changing” quarterback who has lifted Mississippi State from obscurity to national prominence.

The Mississippi State coaching staff and fan base always knew what they had in Dak. They always knew that he had the presence. They always knew he had the talent. And they always knew he had “It.”

Mississippi State’s head coach Dan Mullen realized that he had something special when he offered Prescott four years ago. He was one of the first coaches to offer him. Subsequently, he’s one the few coaches who was willing to give Prescott an opportunity to play quarterback.

Prescott rewarded Mullen’s loyalty and faith when he rebuffed a late LSU offer and enrolled early in 2011. He had an immediate buzz from the moment he stepped foot on campus.

Even with Chris Relf(One of more successful Mississippi State quarterbacks in recent memory), Tyler Russell(The most hyped quarterback recruit Mississippi State had ever signed) and Dylan Favre(Brett Favre’s nephew) on the roster, there was still talk of the broad-shouldered kid who was Mullen’s first true target at the quarterback position.

The media and fans had to wait to see the kid, though. Prescott redshirted and then served as the running quarterback to Russell’s passing quarterback as a freshman.

The time finally came for the kid to be unleashed. Russell succumbed to an injury in the first game of the season. Prescott entered and brought spark to an offense that looked putrid under Russell. The Bulldogs still lost the game, but it was clear that there was something special about the kid.

A young Bulldog team struggled in 2013 but Prescott shined and gave Mississippi State something it needed: hope.

Hope that they had finally found the quarterback they always sought. Coming from a state that has produced Brett Favre(Southern Miss), Archie Manning(Ole Miss) and Steve McNair(Alcorn State), it’s a shame that Mississippi State had never had “that” guy. But they had him now.

The national media heaped praise on Prescott during the off-season. The college football world was still wondering: Who is this kid Dak Prescott everyone is calling a “Dark Horse” Heisman candidate?

Prescott lived up to the hype in the first three games–throwing for 696 yards and rushing for 273 with 11 combined touchdowns.

With a primetime match-up against LSU, the stage was finally set for Prescott to announce his arrival to the rest of the nation. He delivered. He had 373 total yards and three touchdowns.

It wasn’t just the numbers that set Prescott apart. It’s the way he went about getting them.

The most impressive sequence came in the third quarter. Prescott fumbled the ball and LSU defensive end Danielle Hunter picked it up and scored. Showing great resiliency, the Haughton, Louisiana native responded with a 56-yard run through the teeth of the LSU defense–killing LSU’s momentum and re-establishing Mississippi State’s control of the game that was never relinquished.

It was a true “Heisman” moment.

Prescott emerged from the game as a true contender for the Heisman, not a “Dark Horse.” He has everything required to be a front-runner.

Stats: Prescott has thrown for 11 touchdowns on the season, to go along with 378 rushing yards and 15 combined touchdowns–including a touchdown reception.

Intangibles: Prescott has the million-dollar smile and clean image that Heisman voters covet now with the recent transgressions of past winners Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel.

Great Story: Prescott lost his mother Peggy last season. And in the same week, he went out and played inspired football. He suffered a shoulder injury but returned valiantly in the final game–leading the Bulldogs to an improbable victory over in-state rival Ole Miss.

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Mullen and Prescott are a match made in Heaven.


Not only has Prescott given the Bulldogs a Heisman candidate, he’s helped them have something they’ve never had: an offense.

The Bulldogs historically are known for having great defensive teams. But the offense has always left something to be desired.

The Bulldog offense in 2014 has changed that narrative. They’re putting up 41.3 points a game (26th in the nation). This year’s offense is a realization of what many hoped for when Dan Mullen was hired in 2009 away from Florida.

Dak is a major reason for that turnaround. He’s allowed Mullen to open up the offense in a way he never could under Relf and Russell. Relf had the arm talent and legs but lacked the accuracy and confidence. Russell had the arm talent and accuracy but lacked the intangibles. Prescott has the arm talent, legs and accuracy with a little extra.

While I praise Prescott for his intangibles and talent, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what he has working in his favor.

The emerging star has the right talent around him. Josh Robinson has emerged as one of the best running backs in the SEC. Jameon Lewis and De’Runnya Wilson are All-SEC caliber wide receivers. The Bulldog offensive line isn’t half bad, either.

The “Power” spread employed by Mullen fits right into Prescott’s physical style of play. It’s the same offense that made Tim Tebow, who Prescott has been compared to, into one of the greatest college football players of all-time.

It doesn’t hurt that the Bulldogs have a “Psycho D”, which is only giving up 16.5 points per game (16th nationally). With that defense behind him, Dak isn’t under pressure to win the game by himself. It allows him to play free and uninhibited.

That will come in handy the next two games as Prescott leads the “Dawgs” against Texas A&M and Auburn, two top-10 opponents led by their own Heisman Trophy candidates–Kenny “Trill” Hill  and Nick Marshall.

So, who’s Dak Prescott? The player Mississippi State knew and the rest of the nation is about to find out about.

        J.Short’s Hot Takes

  • To J.Rob, I know you’re not getting the love around the SEC that you deserve. But I want to say: “I see ya.” Keep eating. The national media will notice your exploits soon enough. 
  • De’Runnya Wilson is the receiver that Mullen has lacked since coming to MSU. That big target who can stretch the field and makes things easy in the red zone. The play that showed Wilson’s worth was the corner route on the first touchdown of the game. The Bulldogs haven’t had a guy who can go up and “Moss” a defensive back that way in the Mullen era.
  • Salute to the Bulldog offensive line for stepping up and dominating one the best defensive lines in college football Saturday.
  • Sticking with the offensive line. Bulldog fans, take several seats over your criticism of the Dillon Day suspension. He deserves it. There is no way he didn’t stomp on those LSU players on purpose. And Change.Org petitions. Really? Y’all need to fall back and email the White House about ISIS or Ebola, not a darn college center for Mississippi State.
  • I have another I see ya for Nelson Adams, Richie Brown and Christian Holmes. All three have played well this season and haven’t got much pub for it. So, I see ya. Keep grindin.
  • If the Bulldog staff doesn’t plug the holes in the secondary, they will lose one or both of the next two games. The Aggies and Tigers have quarterbacks with big-time arms and will take advantage of every mistake. Get it together in the bye week or pay for it. I don’t care how they do it. Just do it.
J.Short’s Final Take

To Dan Mullen, what the heck were you thinking in final minutes of the LSU game? I really want to know. You get backups ready in other games to play the LSU’s of the world, not get them experience versus the LSU’s of the world. I’d call this colossal coaching blunder a fireable offense if the Bulldogs hadn’t actually won the game. It’s probably the stupidest coaching move I’ve seen in a long time.

Jeremiah Short, Peach State College Sports Contributor

Catch me on the “SportsKrib” on Wednesday’s 8-9 Central. Follow me on social media @DaRealJShort or check out my facebook page JShortJournalist or my Google Plus page J.Short- Journalist

 
 
Tyson Lee comes up short against LSU in 2009.


Tyson Lee failing to score on the goaline against LSU in 2009 signifies the entire Dan Mullen Era. The Bulldogs have always been one inch, one play, one player and one “statement” game short of ascending from a “Team on the Rise” to legit SEC Title contender under the sixth-year coach.

Auburn 2010: The Bulldogs were faced with an opportunity to beat the eventual national champion. Chris Relf attempted to lead a game-winning drive. It was a valiant attempt. But Leon Berry, a Bulldog receiver, dropped a critical pass. One play short.

South Carolina 2011: Bulldogs have an opportunity to beat South Carolina, one of the premier SEC ball clubs the past few years. They have the lead in the last minutes. What happens? South Carolina gets a favorable match up with Alshon Jeffery on Corey Broomfield and not Mississippi State’s best corner Johnthan Banks. Jeffery “Mosses” Broomfield and the Bulldogs are once again one play and player short in a big game.

2012 Season: The Bulldogs start the season 7-0 and are poised to take the next step. What happens? They nose dive and lose five of their next six games–including their only loss to Ole Miss, their in-state rival, during Mullen’s tenure.

Auburn 2013: The “Dawgs” again have an opportunity to beat Auburn, the eventual national championship runner-up. What happens? C.J. Uzumah gets a favorable match up against freshman cornerback Cedric Jiles and scores the game-winning touchdown for Auburn. Again, one play short. Now the Bulldogs had two solid victories in 2010. They beat Georgia and Florida, two perennial powers. The victories are a good notch in the belt. But it doesn’t do much for your program to beat perennial powers in down years.

Preston Smith/Google Images
Smith has won the SEC Defensive Linemen of the Week three times in a row. It’s the first time in history someone has accomplished the feat.


Present Day: The Bulldogs have another opportunity to make a statement Saturday against LSU. They’re riding a six-game winning streak going back to the 2013 regular season and have the most depth they’ve had under Mullen. The excuse for “Dawgs” in most years is that they don’t have comparable talent to most SEC powers such as LSU. That’s not the case this year.

The Bulldogs have a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback(Dak Prescott), two All-SEC candidates at receiver(De’Runnya Wilson and Jameon Lewis), two All-American candidates on the defensive line(Chris Jones and Preston Smith), an All-American candidate at linebacker(Benardrick McKinney) and two talented cornerbacks( Jamerson Love and Taveze Calhoun). An argument can be made that Bulldogs are more talented than LSU in several positions. Quarterback, Wide Receiver and Linebacker come to mind. That’s a claim the Mullen-led squad couldn’t make the past few years.

Toppling LSU won’t be an easy task. They are LSU after all. While the Tigers still have uncertainty at quarterback, they still have a dominant running game, which features Kenny Hilliard and heralded true freshman Leonard Fournette. They have the big-play ability of Travis Dural on the outside. And as always, they have an elite defense, which is only allowing eight points a game. Oh yeah, the game is in “Death Valley”, one the toughest road environments in college football. A win would give the Bulldogs a statement victory, but also, momentum as they head into the meat of their SEC schedule, in which they face Auburn and Texas A&M two weeks in a row. “Right now our focus is on this game and this game only. If we win this game we are going to be where we want to be in the SEC race. It is always important to win your first game in conference play because that really gives you a big jump start in the conference,” Mullen on the importance of getting off to a strong start in SEC play.

ESPN will televise the game. So, the whole world will be watching. Mullen is trying to keep things in the proper perspective, though “We get a ton of publicity playing in the Southeastern Conference and playing great teams all the time. If we win we will have one day where everyone tells us how great we are, and if we lose we will have one day where everyone tells us how bad we are. Then we have to get back to work. I don’t pay much attention to it because we won’t be as good as everyone tells us we are and probably won’t be as bad as everyone tells us we are. Sunday we will be right back to working on the next opponent,” Mullen on playing on the national stage.

The Bulldog fans and players have come up with creative hashtags for the season: #Dak4Heisman, #$Yr, #MakeEmBelieve and #RdToAtl. All those things could become a reality if they don’t fold in the clutch. That means they must convert their third downs. That means that they can’t have a slow start. And they can’t let the moment overcome them as they have in every year under Dan Mullen. Beat LSU and you’re not a team rising to the top. …You’re there.

Jeremiah Short, Peach State College Sports Contributor Catch me on the “SportsKrib” on Wednesday’s 8-9 Central. Follow me on social media @DaRealJShort or check out my facebook page JShortJournalist or my Google Plus page J.Short- Journalist


Posted by: jeremiah short // September 18, 2014
 
 
Dare To Dream Can the Mississippi State Bulldogs win the SEC? I say to Bulldog fans: Dare to Dream.

I’m not trying to pump sunshine with that statement. I’m speaking reality. To win the SEC, teams must have three traits: good depth, elite talent and an elite defense. The Bulldogs have all three in 2014.

They rotated two-deep on both sides of the ball on Saturday, and there wasn’t a noticeable drop off. Dak Prescott, Josh Robinson, Jameon Lewis, De’Runnya “Bear” Wilson, Chris Jones, Benardrick McKinney are All-SEC caliber talents who must be accounted for every week. And the Bulldog defense, which has taken on the mantra “Psycho Defense”, is ferocious.

I like to keep things in perspective, though. I understand the Bulldogs have to get through Alabama, LSU and Auburn and the entire SEC West for that matter. But all you can do is play the games on your schedule, which is favorable to the Bulldogs. They don’t face an SEC opponent until the fourth game of the season. That’s enough time to work out the kinks and establish who the key pieces are on the team.

The first game, while against inferior competition, offered some insight into who are those key contributors.
Google Images/Dak Prescott


Offense

The Bulldog offense started where it left off ending the season: dominating. After early troubles, the offense gained its footing in the second quarter and never looked back…making it look easy.

Quarterback (B)

I know some feel Prescott played a tremendous game, but I don’t think he played up to expectations. I was disappointed that Prescott hasn’t progressed more mechanically in the pocket. He still was flicking the ball too much and throwing flat-footed at times. His mechanics came a long way last season. I thought he would be much further ahead after a full off-season of work. His numbers were eye popping, though. Four touchdowns and 286 yards through the air are nothing to sneeze at. But if he doesn’t fix those mechanical issues, it will show up against upper echelon opponents.

QB Position Now and Going Forward: I critcized Prescott’s performance. But I expect nothing less than an All-SEC season from him.

While Prescott is a superstar, I have concerns about whether Damian Williams is a capable back-up in the SEC. He performed admirably last season in spot duty. If I was to go off the first game, he didn’t progress much. I’m not comfortable he could get the job done if Prescott went down. With that said, Coach Mullen needs to get Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley ready and allow them to compete for the number two job.

Running Back (B)

The MSU running backs were probably the most unheralded of all the offensive positions headed into the season. Josh Robinson made those who underrated him and his cohorts take notice after his spectacular performance, though. He looked comfortable in the lead-back role. He was fast, physical and got stronger as the game went on. And he displayed some good hands with three catches for 49 yards.

I was a little discouraged with the other backs. Nick Griffin’s stat line looked nice (eight carries for 45 yards). But he ran out of gas quickly and lacks the necessary explosion to be a rotational SEC back. Brandon Holloway looked solid in a few runs. Solid isn’t going to get it in the SEC as a rotational back.

RB Now and Going Forward: Robinson is entrenched as the feature back, but he needs capable backups. Ashton Shumpert was suspended for the first game. He’ll take one of spots in the rotation in game two. The number three spot is where the trouble comes in. Again, Griffin isn’t a player you want as a regular rotation back.

What’s the answer? Pull the redshirt off of Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year Aeris Williams. He’s too good of a player to sit down on the bench when there is a need at running back. With Robinson, Shumpert and Williams leading the charge, Holloway could settle into a specialty role where he fits best. Griffin could continue in his role as the Fullback. The unit would have depth with this rotation and stack up to the rest of the SEC.

Wide Receiver/Tight End (A)

I loved, loved, loved what I saw from the Bulldog receivers on Saturday. They got open, were sure handed and played with a level of aggression I’ve never seen from a collective group of Bulldog receivers. It’s the first time in a while I can say that at least four MSU receivers have that “dogg” in them: Jameon Lewis, De’Runnya Wilson, Fred Brown and Fred Ross. Lewis is already an All-SEC talent. But Wilson is “that” outside guy MSU has been waiting on since Dan Mullen took over. He doesn’t just have All-SEC potential…He has All-American potential. He’s big, tall and a proficient route runner. Many don’t know his name. But they will soon.

WR/TE Now and Going Forward: The Bulldogs have a legitimate two-deep at Receiver and Tight End. The three main targets are Malcolm Johnson, Wilson and Lewis. I’d take that. There needs to be some reshuffling on the depth chart, though. Robert Johnson would be my first change. The coaches have been waiting on him for a couple years now. He’s yet to take that next step. Brown, Ross and possibly Joe Morrow have passed him up. He deserves to be in the rotation. But one of those players needs to replace him in the starting line-up.

Offensive Line(C+) The offensive line was very Jekyll and Hyde Saturday Night. They did a good job making holes in the running game, but Prescott and Williams got hit way too many times. The struggles could be attributed to the constant rotation at the position. But there’s no excuse for a player like a Blaine Clausell, a two-year starter, to get dominated the way he did on a few plays. He has not only needs to step up but man up. He’s the Left Tackle and has to set the tone. He didn’t set the right one on Saturday.

OL Now and Going Forward: All the offensive line has to do is settle down, and they’ll be fine. Coach John Hevesy has to find his best seven and go with them. That ten rotation stuff is implausible. Most good teams don’t have seven good linemen and darn sure don’t have ten.
Google Images/Benardrick McKinney


Defense

“Psycho Defense” was in full effect on Saturday. The Bulldog defense looked mean, aggressive and intimidating. This is the first time since the Joe Lee Dunn “Dawg” defense days that the Bulldogs have an identity on that side of ball. The rest of the SEC should be worried…very worried.

Defensive Line (A)

Unstoppable is the only word I can use to describe this unit. The Southern Miss line just couldn’t slow them down. They bull-rushed, ran through and ran around the Golden Eagle offensive line the whole night. Chris Jones was, well, Chris Jones. And Preston Smith announced himself as the next breakout star in the SEC. He got to the quarterback a couple of times, had an interception and blocked a kick. Smith and Jones give Coach Geoff Collins two dominant pieces to build his defense around.

DL Now and Going Forward: The unit rotated ten defensive linemen in the first game. Those numbers probably need to get trimmed. I would also do some reshuffling. First, Kaleb Eulls has to get demoted in favor of Chris Jones or Nelson Adams and reduced to a spot duty role. With Adams back at Defensive Tackle, there are two options for the other defensive end spot: Use Gerri Green or Dezmond Harris at DE to maximize talent or reduce the rotation to three players: Smith, Ryan Brown and A.J. Jefferson. Hopefully, Torrey Dale steps up and solves the problem.

Linebacker (A-)

I’ll say this about the Bulldog linebackers: They aren’t afraid to hit anybody. Matt Wells, Benardrick McKinney and Beniquez Brown will step up in hole and meet running backs at the point of attack and bring the pain. Their backups weren’t half bad, either. Christian Holmes led the team in tackles and Richie Brown was noticeable the whole night. I do have one gripe from the group and that’s with its leader: McKinney. He made a couple nice tackles, but he wasn’t as disruptive as an All-American should be on a play-by-play basis. He needs to make his presence felt, and he didn’t make himself known on Saturday.

LB Now and Going Forward: I don’t think many changes need to be made to the linebacker position. The redshirt getting pulled off Gerri Green, the Bulldog’s heralded freshman linebacker, could change a few things, though. He’s good enough to take a spot in the two-deep. And I think he would do that if Mullen elects not to redshirt him.

Defensive Back (Incomplete)

It’s hard to grade the defensive backs–as they didn’t really get tested all night. They played well in run support. But defensive backs are ultimately judged off their pass-coverage ability, and they get to display that on Saturday. MSU’s defensive line didn’t give USM’s quarterback time to throw the ball. I can more accurately judge them when MSU plays an SEC opponent.

DB Now and Going Forward: I didn’t grade this unit, but I think they could be one of the SEC’s premiere secondaries. Taveze Calhoun, Jamerson Love, Tolando Cleveland and Will Redmond form a nice foursome at cornerback. Cedric Jiles eventual return will provide even more depth at that spot. At Safety, the Bulldogs are not as strong but still pretty good. Justin Cox moved back to his junior college position of Free Safety and looked more natural there. Jay Hughes, the starting Strong Safety, showed no ill effects from his Achilles injury suffered last year–returning a blocked kick for a touchdown. Kivon Coman, Kendrick Market and Dee Evans provide the Bulldog with capable backups at the spot.

Special Teams (D)

The Bulldog special teams need work. No surprise there.

Kicking/Punting: I don’t know the name of either kicker. I don’t think it matters. They’re both bad. On the bright side, Devon Bell looks top notch at punter after struggling the past two years at Kicker. He put three balls inside the 20. You can’t ask for better than that.

Return Game: Cox and Redmond didn’t get a chance to show their stuff-as the Bulldog defense pitched a shutout. But Lewis and Holloway returned a few punts and were average at best.

ST Now and Going Forward: I don’t think there’s much that can be done at Kicker except for new players. And that’s real. I just hope a game doesn’t come down to a kick. Bell, in my opinion, should have a stellar year at punter. I won’t say that he’ll be All-SEC but he’ll help tilt the field position in the Bulldog’s favor on several occasions.

I don’t know what to expect from Cox and Redmond. But they both can run…like 4.3 speed run. That can’t hurt when returning kicks. I’ve always thought that Lewis could be a great punt returner, but he’s never lived up to it. Let’s see if he can finally do it in 2014.
Google Images/Geoff Collins


Coaching (B)

I think the coaching staff did what they needed to do in the first game while not showing too much.

Game Management: Mullen excelled in this area for a change. He rotated evenly at every position got his key players out when he needed to get them out.

Offensive Play Calling: It seems Mullen has finally seen the light now that people know he’s really the one calling the plays. The offense had a fluidity to it that I haven’t seen in the Mullen Era. And that’s while being vanilla. He protected his main asset, Prescott, by not calling many zone-reads or QB Power plays. I liked the run-pass balance, as well. My praise comes with one caveat: The red-zone play calling was generic and confounding. Why doesn’t Mullen makes things easier on himself? He has a 6’6 Bear at receiver (Wilson), a tight end he can flex(Malcolm Johnson) and a quarterback that gives you the run-pass option(Prescott). I wouldn’t run anything but a zone-read, bootleg or fade route inside the ten.

Why do anything else?

Defensive Play Calling: There wasn’t much to critique. Collins didn’t want to show much. So, his play calling was vanilla. If the defense was that good running their base set, think how good they’ll be once the aggression is turned up.

The Bulldogs are poised for a great season. They will not only compete in the SEC but potentially win it.

Jeremiah Short, Peach State College Sports Contributor

Dare to Dream of Atlanta.

Catch me on the “SportsKrib” on Wednesday’s 8-9 Central. Follow me on social media @DaRealJShort or check out my facebook page JShortJournalist or my Google Plus page J.Short- Journalist


Posted by: jeremiah short // September 1, 2014