“I know he’s really excited about what we have here and what Coach Mullen has built here,” Johnson said. “It’s a very, very special place and I’m just really excited to be a part of it and get him for another year.”
As he ought be. In only his first season at Mississippi State, the former quarterback for Dan Mullen at Utah helped Dak Prescott make program history in 2014. The list of team and individual records set last fall means the record book is due for heavy editing before 2015. When, Prescott confirmed Wednesday, he will still be on the Bulldog job.
Johnson is not surprised Prescott will return for a senior season. Relieved? Oh, yes. Replacing a play-maker who is already being counted as perhaps the most productive quarterback in Bulldog history would throw quite a burden on the position coach.
Now, spring practice planning just got a whole lot simpler for Johnson and the rest of the offensive staff. The defensive staff too, for that matter, since the best defense in today’s game and increasingly in the SEC as well is a great offense.
“Yeah, that’s the best recruiting job of all right there,” Johnson said, “is getting an opportunity to get a player back of Dak’s caliber.”
Which is no insult to Prescott’s trio of understudies. True junior-to-be Damian Williams has SEC and winning experience of his own and put in a fine Orange Bowl camp. More impressive in a younger way was redshirt freshman Nick Fitzgerald, benefitting from his second bowl camp at Mississippi State. His passing and running looked much more advanced than a typical second-spring freshman for sure. And while hindered by a kneecap issue aggravated supposedly by practicing basketball, the athletic gifts of Elijah Staley are obvious.
But Prescott is in a class by himself, and that is not simply saying he is the only senior quarterback on the club. He is also the first Bulldog All-SEC quarterback in three decades.
“We had a great year,” Johnson said. “He had a great individual year. I think with another year of experience…this was just his first full-time season as the starter. So with more reps I think you continue to get more comfortable.”
Johnson is right. While Prescott did start several games in 2013, the 2014 season was allllll his. And what a season it was, a 10-3 record with the most regular-season wins in program history, for five weeks the #1 ranking, and the final AP ranking at #11.
Yet the quarterback coach has a point when he states Prescott can still improve. He’s spent maybe a month’s worth of hours with his pupil watching cut-ups and going through all sorts of minutia. Prescott is already breaking down 2014 results for 2015 application.
“And I think with him coming back the game will slow down even more for him,” Johnson said. “That will help his anticipation, help his feet, and just become generally a better player by accumulating those reps.”
Now, take the motivation to improve his NFL grades for the 2016 draft, add it to Prescott’s own already-driven approach…and who knows what the senior season will bring? Johnson can only guess, but loves the possibilities.
“And one of the things when we first came in and first got together is we decided to set some goals of what we wanted to accomplish, about becoming a more accurate passer, becoming a better leader, becoming more of a field general. And I think he accomplished those throughout the course of the season. So throughout this year of being with him I think he’s made tremendous strides, and looking forward to making another jump next year.”