What Dak Prescott will do, is stay with Mississippi State and remain in charge of the Bulldog offense for 2015. The All-Southeastern Conference quarterback went public with his career-call Wednesday, one day ahead of the NFL’s early-entry deadline.
While he did not use the phrase ‘unfinished business’ that was certainly a theme. Maybe the theme. “When I decided to come to Mississippi State, it wasn’t about competing for a championship one year or making a run for one year,” Prescott said.
“It was about competing for championships and making this a program that is not a one-hit wonder, but on a consistent basis is a top-10 and top-five team nationally. Everybody knows about Mississippi State and everybody fears Mississippi State when they see them on the schedule. That’s a chance I have coming back another year in helping do that.”
To be sure the 2014 season was a wonder. Over the 10-3 campaign Prescott quarterbacked the Bulldog offense to pages upon pages of statistical records, and set a stack of season and career marks himself. Of more meaning was taking a Mississippi State team unranked in preseason not only into the polls but all the way to the top, to the program’s first-ever #1 ranking. Coach Dan Mullen’s team stayed there five weeks, including a couple of weeks atop the inaugural College Football Playoff standings.
Losses in road games to the chief rivals in November cost a shot at the Playoffs themselves, and the Orange Bowl trip was not a success. So while nothing can diminish what the Bulldogs did in 2014 as a whole…Prescott wants more and better as a senior.
“I think we have a great team coming back. I think we were doubted a good bit on what we would do, and I think we broke all those odds. I think we surpassed the expectations. We didn’t exactly finish the way we wanted to finish, I think it had a big part in my decision, going 1-3 in the last four games.
“I wouldn’t want to finish a career at such a great place and leave on a note like that. Not to mention we don’t have the Golden (Egg) Trophy, the most special trophy in the state. I want to make sure that returns home where that belongs next year when I have the opportunity to play in that game again.”
Two of Prescott’s teammates, linebacker Benardrick McKinney and running back Josh Robinson, are passing on senior seasons for NFL draft shots. Prescott considered doing the same, even requesting a draft round evaluation in December.
As he said today though, such information could only have changed his decision, not made one. “I kind of had my mind made up before I submitted my papers.” Besides, the NFL feedback will prove useful to both himself and Mississippi State this year.
“I want to get better at every aspect of the quarterback position, my feet, pocket awareness, all kinds of things like finishing out fakes and things like that. Being more consistent as a quarterback and as a leader is what I want to do. And I don’t think the grade had anything to do with this decision.”
A grade Prescott was not going to share. Nor need to. Though, he smiled, with names like Winston and Mariotta and the like in the 2015 quarterback pool “That does make a great class coming out in this draft, and I think if I left it would just make it better!
“I’ve got a lot of things I want to get better at. And I want my best chance at quarterback at the next level, and I want to redefine my skills so I have every opportunity to be the best and even grow once I get in that level.”
Prescott couldn’t help having a little fun referring to the fuss raised by will he/won’t he talk. “A lot of people made a lot more noise and made it a bigger deal than it was.” Yet to begin the presser Prescott’s comments were uncomfortably—to fans that is—like a farewell statement.
He thanked everyone attending and tuning-in to the live stream; his coaches who recruited and developed him; his teammates; the fans for the support. “Through my four years here the ups and downs and adversity off and on the field,” he said. Then Prescott commented on watching the NFL playoffs and quarterback styles.
Having built a bit of tension, Prescott eased it as masterfully as any read-option run last season.
“Looking at the NFL quarterbacks now that are playing in the playoffs, you’re talking about Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, some of those guys who had a chance to leave early in their career but didn’t. They decided to come back for another year. I want to do that as well to redefine my skills. I think this is another year for Mississippi State to compete for a national Championship and compete for an SEC Championship.”
The barometric pressure around Mississippi and the SEC likely soared then from all the exhalations. In relief from Mississippi State’s side, concern from 2015 opponents. Prescott’s expectations for the coming season surely amplified both reactions.
“I think we have a better team coming back next year than we did this year. We have a lot of talented guys. We have a great freshman class coming in with guys like Malik Dear and Deddrick Thomas, those are some dynamic receivers not to mention the juco guys Martinas Rankin, Donald Gray and some big-time playmakers that can come in and have an impact on the team immediately. We just have to get on the same page and make sure everybody comes together.
“I think it can be a special year. We have a core of running backs, I can name four or five of them that are special guys when the ball is in their hands. We’re coming back with a great defense as well. We’re losing some guys like Benardrick and Preston (Smith), but freshmen stepping in Gerri Green, J.T. Gray, we still have Ryan Brown. We have a great team coming back with a lot of athleticism. I’m just excited to be a part of it and wear the Maroon and White again for another year and go compete for championships.”
Returning means enrolling in graduate school, as Prescott received his educational psychology degree in December. He turns 22 next July.
And a year from now he will be preparing for the 2016 draft, following a senior season where there will be so much pressure to improve the things that NFL scouts want to see. For that matter, improving on an epic 2014 season will be difficult. Whether ranked or not—State ended this year #11—the Bulldogs will be a targeted game from preseason and on. They will get everybody’s best shot now.
Yet, “I don’t think it’s going to be difficult,” said Prescott, who is 14-6 as a starting quarterback. “We have a great team coming back. I think we can be better. We don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. We want to be a team that competes consistently year in and year out. We expect to get back to No. 1. Those are our expectations, and I think with the team, with the leadership and with the coaches, I think we have the ability to do that.”