Prescott Expanding Passing Skills In Spring

It really isn't fair to the defense. That as soon as that green jersey is in their sights or better within their reach, they immediately must dial it back. Funny thing, though…Dak Prescott shares some of the frustration about his no-touch status on scrimmage scrambles. "I wasn't live so all the running wouldn't be that fun!"

Note though we said only ‘some' of the frustration is shared. On the whole Prescott is content to be hands-off during this spring's drills and intrasquad action. And every Bulldog knows, the junior quarterback has proved his toughness of body and mind far, far beyond any debate. So there is no need Prescott take contact in camp to improve his play.

There is in his mind other items to address, as Prescott assumes complete responsibility for the Mississippi State offense in 2014. Somewhat ironically it all begins with, yes, his footwork. Not in the scramble or called-keeper game though. Prescott aims at becoming a first-class collegiate passing quarterback and it depends on his foundation in the pocket.

"Really just my footwork. Being consistent, getting my hands together with my eyes and arm. Coach (Brian) Johnson has done a great job and he's getting it all out of me."

The new quarterbacks coach certainly stepped into a near-ideal situation at Mississippi State this spring. Johnson takes charge of further developing a fourth-year junior who threw for 1,940 yards and ten touchdowns last season. As, it needs reminding, the nominal second quarterback to then-senior Tyler Russell, who was shaken-up on opening day and played in six other games. Working within a scheme largely designed around Russell's drop-back talents Prescott performed well with 58% accuracy, a net of 12 yards on every completion, and only seven of his 267 passes picked.

Now however the 2014 offense is being revised—not radically but enough—to maximize Prescott's more versatile ‘spread' skills as a runner and thrower. Remember too that despite missing two entire games and most of two other contests Prescott set the rushing record for a Bulldog quarterback with 829 yards. That was most on the entire team, too.

But for all his prowess pounding the ground and how that will keep defenses honest, it is in the air Prescott plans to make the most junior-season improvement. Johnson, Coach Dan Mullen and passing game coordinator Billy Gonzales have spent spring polishing a few aspects. For that matter Prescott already understands what to work on most now.

"I'm definitely critiquing the passing game. Getting my feet to go with my hands and eyes, and just becoming a better passer and knowledge of the game."

Spring statistics, which are entirely unofficial and kept by media, aren't the best indicator of how a quarterback is playing. The observers don't know what play was called, if the receivers did the right thing or quarterback made the right reads. So caution is advised when reading the numbers. Still after a first scrimmage stat-line of 16-of-26 for 175 yards and a touchdown, Prescott came back for a 249-yard and four-touchdown day the second scrimmage. But his percentage was 13-of-31; maybe reflecting a script calling for tougher pass plays or using different targets or whatever. And to be fair, both scrimmage Saturdays the wind swirling inside the renovating Davis Wade Stadium made things interesting for throwers and catchers.

On the whole Mullen was satisfied with what he saw on the field pending video evaluation against the script. The head coach also noted that while Prescott will ‘run' on some plays and can't be tackled, the defense knows they can focus on coverage and rush and not worry as much about contain as opponents surely will come fall.

"We're not going to put him in a position of make a lot of plays with his legs," Mullen said. "But I love when you take that away from him he still manages the offense and does a great job."

For his part Prescott was happier with the second scrimmage than the first. "We started out slow but we ended up picking it back up. We got the momentum going and finished on some drives and got hot in the passing game."

This is a most interesting spring for a veteran quarterback not only because he is now the undisputed starter. Besides expanding his passing game repertoire, Prescott has an expanded roster for tossing to. That has been displayed in scrimmages and will be again this Saturday in the Maroon-White spring game.

"Exactly, and that makes it fun," said Prescott. "We've got the speedy guys, we've got the big guys, we've got the tight ends. And they all can make plays in any different way. So it's exciting to get the ball in their hands and see what they can do."

Mentioning the tight ends separately is no mistake. That group is especially fascinating in 2014 camp. Malcolm Johnson has certainly produced in his varsity career, and Brandon Hill is a viable alternate. Now with Artimas Samuel rounding into form there is a bigger body in the mix. And during scrimmages soph Gus Walley has just plain shown-off with seven catches for 156 yards and a touchdown play. Not catch, play as he hauled in a strike over the middle and did the rest with his legs.

The is just one addition to the route-running mix which has proven playmakers out-wide in Jameon Lewis, Robert Johnson, De'Runnya Wilson, Joe Morrow, etc., to mix in with a healthy Fred Ross, redshirt Shelby Christy, and so on. "We've got a bunch of guys that can do different things and are different weapons, so we kind of showcased it."

Prescott, as well as his backups Damian Williams and Nick Fitzgerald, had a few rough Saturday patches created by a practice injury to Dillon Day. The senior center missed the second scrimmage with a left arm problem. Mullen and line coach John Hevesy just used this opportunity to show who would be Day's replacement, heavens forbid one be needed in the real season. Veteran RG Ben Beckwith snapped for the first team, Archie Muniz the second. Both kept the quarterbacks moving with a series of high snaps which may or may not have impacted how a lot of the plays played-out.

Here though Prescott showed again why he is such a natural leader on and off the field. "Those guys that came in they did a great job today, Archie and Ben," he said, speaking up for the snappers immediately. "At first it may have been a little bit different, the ball may have been here-or-there. But they got it together and we had a good day." No wonder this team, really on both sides of the roster, looks at Prescott as the tone-setter.

In fact, the quarterback gladly leads cheers for his defense, calling it "the best defense in the country" and crediting them for only making the offense better with daily challenges. "They're great, Benardrick McKinney at linebacker getting them going and Poke Dog (Kendrick Market) at safety, I mean it's a great defense."

Then again, Prescott can say anything he likes about his defensive teammates and they still can't touch him. Though, "If Coach wanted to make me live, he could!"

Mullen has open practices scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday this week, leading up to the spring game festivities on Saturday.

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