Redshirt freshman preparing in case he needs to step up for Mississippi State

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – It hasn’t quite sunk in for Dak Prescott just how close he is to being a starting SEC quarterback.
That’s not a scenario Mississippi State’s coaches want to see unfold this fall, because Prescott being the starter would entail Tyler Russell getting hurt. The SEC being what it is, of course, that’s a possibility.
So should Russell go down, Prescott would be the man. The redshirt freshman from Haughton, La., is being prepped for a starting role this preseason, just in case.
“You don’t ever want to lose a quarterback,” offensive coordinator Les Koenning said at MSU’s media day on Tuesday. “But we’ll prepare both of them to play, and both of them will be ready to play.”
Prescott said he and Russell don’t discuss the possibility of the latter being sidelined. Russell dealt with two knee injuries last fall, the second of which kept him out of the Music City Bowl.
“That’s not anything we bring up. We don’t want that vibe,” Prescott said.
Even with a healthy Russell out there, coaches want to get Prescott on the field, just so his first experience won’t have to be in an emergency situation.
“We have to get him on the field,” head coach Dan Mullen said. “You look last year, we had two quarterbacks on the field in games before, so the desperation to get them on the field immediately was not as much as it is now.”
Prescott is a different kind of quarterback than Russell – more mobile, not as polished of a passer. Prescott is obviously working with a smaller play card than Russell, and there are still a lot of things for the younger QB to work on.
Prescott’s instinct when things begin to break down is to run, which he does well. As a senior at Haughton, he rushed for 951 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Now, when a receiver can’t immediately be found, Prescott is trying to be patient.
“Coming from high school, if I didn’t find my guys, I’m taking off,” he said. “But now it’s about finding your check-downs, going through your second and third reads, getting through all your progressions. It’s a big difference, but it’s something I’m going to work on and improve at.”
‘A dream come true’
Prescott is not a weak passer. He needs some work, but he has a strong arm, is watching Russell closely, and is working on his throwing technique. Prescott has a sense of urgency he didn’t feel last year, so he’s getting in the film room and devouring information.
He’s got until Sept. 1 to be as ready as possible.
“It hasn’t hit me yet. I’m getting more excited about playing my first SEC game,” Prescott said. “It’s just a dream come true. If that comes and I have to step up to be the guy, I’m pretty sure my teammates will rally around me and pick me up, and we’ll be ready to go.”
brad.locke@journalinc.com