By Jake Wimberly
March 30, 2014
Coming into the 1969 college football season, all the hype and focus was on Mississippi quarterback Archie Manning. Manning, who grew up in Drew, Mississippi had the weight of the state and the college football world on his shoulders.
Manning broke records and finished fourth and third, respectfully in the Heisman Trophy race his last two years on the Oxford campus and set the standard for quarterback play in the state but, his team finished a modest 15-7 his last two years.
What Manning did is set the bar extremely high within the state of Mississippi and we haven’t seen the hype, emotion or buzz around a player, like it was around Archie – until now.
Yes there was John Bond and John Forcade. There was Brett Favre at USM and Steve McNair at Alcorn State. Both NFL Hall of Famers, you would assume and both legends in the state of Mississippi. But – the buzz around them in college never compared to Manning.
Yes, there was Eli, who followed in the footsteps of his father and he finished second in the Heisman race in 2003 but, even he could not create the buzz on campus his father did.
While Mississippi State has never been “quarterback U”, many felt Tyler Russell could be the best to ever strap on a maroon helmet. Russell, while an effective quarterback and breaking school passing records, never lived up to expectations out of high school and his hype faded.
Mississippi State head football coach Dan Mullen has been long revered as a quarterback guru. From his time tutoring Alex Smith at Utah, to recruiting now Mississippi State quarterbacks Coach Brian Johnson to Utah, to Tim Tebow and Cam Newton during their time at Florida – Mullen’s career is surrounded by great quarterbacks.
During the 2011 signing period, Mullen inked Haughton, LA native Dak Prescott. Prescott chose the Bulldogs over LSU, TCU and others and enrolled at Mississippi State in January of 2012. Prescott, like many high school athletes these days chose to forego his senior prom and last semester in high school, to get a jump on his college career.
Prescott, who was revered as a dual threat quarterback is big, strong, has height and athleticism.
His position coach, Brian Johnson referred to him as being built like a “super hero figure” after meeting him this spring.
Many in the Mississippi State family felt Prescott could be special. After all, he ran like Chris Relf, was a little faster and has the ability to complete passes more efficiently.
During the 2013 season, Prescott wowed State fans and media alike with his play, while battling injuries.
Prescott, like Archie, lost a parent and chose not to let it shake him. Prescott lost his mother this past year to cancer and chose to honor her in the way he plays.
The Prescott lore seemed to take off after one shining moment, during the Egg Bowl in 2013. Prescott came into the game late, playing injured; to engineer a game tying field goal and he scored the eventual winning touchdown in overtime.
Prescott again got the nod against Rice in the Liberty Bowl this past year and wowed fans and media alike, with a five touchdown ball game; a game that saw him crisp in the passing game and effective as always in the run game.
As with anything, positive results breed expectations and sometimes very high expectations. With the mass exodus of senior quarterbacks in the SEC from 2013, Prescott now takes center stage in the league.
For Prescott, the bar has now been set high, so high that we have not seen buzz around a quarterback in this state since, arguably, Archie Manning.
With 17-starters returning for the Bulldogs in 2014 and a schedule that is manageable, many feel this could be a record setting year for Prescott.
Bovada Sports Books – which is a gaming and betting website out of Las Vegas; has listed their odds for players to win the Heisman Trophy in 2014 – the top award given annually to the country’s top football player and have moved Prescott up their board. Prescott was initially listed as a 66/1 favorite to win the award when the opening odds came out but, has now seen his stock move to 33/1. OddShark.com also has Prescott on their, list at 33/1 as well.
It’s not just the odds makers that are taking notice of Prescott, national media are as well.
During last season’s Thursday night game between Mississippi State and Kentucky, former Florida Gator Jesse Palmer stepped out onto a limb saying Prescott was the best running quarterback Mullen has ever coached. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like much. But when you think about the quarterbacks Mullen has coached, (Tim Tebow and Alex Smith), you may scratch your head.
Bleacher Report National College Football writer Barrett Sallee, who has been critical of Mullen at times even loves Prescott, calling him a Heisman dark horse stating, “the rising junior can look like Tebow at times, and that’s incredibly important for the Bulldogs because it allows Mullen to do what he was brought to Starkville to do—run an offense similar to the one that made Florida successful.”
His position coach, Brian Johnson who wasn’t a bad quarterback himself at Utah has been super surprised by Prescott early, calling him “special” and saying, “I’ve watched him on tape. He has the tools to be special.”
So here we are 45-years after Archie Manning, a quarterback in Maroon getting pub and hype not seen in this state in almost half a century.
A quarterback with a supporting cast around him that are proven winners and a schedule that is manageable and will be monitored closely by the media.
When Mississippi State opens the 2014 season at home, in the newly expanded Davis Wade Stadium, Bulldog fans will pack the house to see Prescott take on old nemesis, Southern Miss.
After the Golden Eagles, Prescott gets to sink his teeth into UAB and South Alabama and should be 3-0 after that stretch, with tons of stats and media attention.
Then it’s back home to the state of Louisiana, for their SEC opener against LSU, in Tiger Stadium.
The Bulldogs haven’t beaten LSU since 1999 and only once since 1992, yet alone win in Tiger Stadium.
It’s been 45-years since we’ve seen this kind of attention on a quarterback in the state of Mississippi. If Prescott starts out 4-0, with a win at Baton Rouge, sticking it to his home state Tigers, you may not be able to contain the Prescott mania.
If Prescott does indeed have the kind of start many people feel he can, he may even make ole Archie smile.
He may not ever admit it publicly because he’s from the other side but, I can promise you he’s already paying attention to Dak. How could he not be? Everyone else in the country is and I promise you, he is too. There hasn’t been a buzz like this in this state since he played; he can’t help but take notice. - MSM