Post spring quarterbacks review

Dak Prescott returns as a fifth-year senior at quarterback. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Dak Prescott returns as a fifth-year senior at quarterback. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Mississippi State will have the top quarterback in the Southeastern Conference returning to the fold this fall in Dak Prescott.

Prescott shattered school records as a junior last season en route to finishing eighth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder had a chance to leave early for the NFL but opted to finish out his college career for the Bulldogs. It is a decision that catapulted MSU back into the conversation as a potential contender in 2015.

A healthy Prescott gives the Bulldogs one of the most dangerous weapons in all of college football. His dual-threat ability is almost unparallelled but it also leaves him susceptible to injury. Prescott wore down as the year went along and his numbers reflected as such.

Prescott carried 210 times last season which is 20 attempts more than any other player on the roster. Sure, his running ability is a key component in what makes State’s offense go but a bevy of physical backs this year should lighten the load on the fifth-year senior.

Prescott’s fifth spring practice was also his best. He is the unquestioned leader of the team and what he says goes.

Prescott’s numbers were also impressive. During the Bulldogs three spring scrimmages, he completed 57 of 90 passes (63.3-percent) for 707 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.

Prescott will not catch anyone by surprise this fall and will be at the top of every opponents’ scouting report on defense. The Bulldogs will only go as far as high rocket right arm and powerful legs will lead them.

While Mississippi State’s starting signal caller is not in question, the back-up certainly is. Unfortunately, quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson was unable to have a healthy competition during the spring.

A pectoral injury to two-year back-up Damian Williams and knee surgery to redshirt freshman Elijah Staley left Nick Fitzgerald as the only other scholarship quarterback to take reps the entire spring.

Fitzgerald is still a work in progress with his passing coming from an optioned based offense in high school but has made great strides in that area over the last year. Going through his second spring, you could tell Fitzgerald has the playbook down and is doing more reacting than thinking out there.

The 6-foot-5, 223-pound redshirt freshman is still prone to interceptions as evidenced by the spring game but so was Prescott at this stage of his career. Those picks should decrease with a little more seasoning behind center.

Williams has served as Prescott’s understudy the past two seasons but seemed to regress as a sophomore after showing some promise late as a true freshman. Missing all of the spring with the exception of two practices certainly won’t help his cause to reclaim the No. 2 quarterback spot.

A dozen games and one start have Williams ahead of Fitzgerald and Staley in the experience department but those two have made up a lot of ground in a short amount of time.

Staley, despite still being immobile from patella surgery in December, still found ways to get reps during non-contact passing drills. The 6-foot-6 southpaw throws a nice deep ball and has a smooth delivery.

Staley’s biggest obstacle after recovering from knee surgery will be knocking off the rust. He has not played in a live football game since midway through his senior year of high school in 2013.

Staley is a heck of an athlete proven by his ability to play multiple sports at the college level and will very much be in the mix if he can bounce back from the injury.

Walk-ons Nate Gieb and Hampton Howard received a few reps this spring but will likely be a non-factor once signee Nick Tiano arrives in the summer.

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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