Mississippi State junior Dak Prescott wants the world to know one thing: He wants to be a winning quarterback.
After missing games against Alabama and Arkansas late in the 2013 season because of a nerve injury in his left arm, Prescott was on the field in the fourth quarter against rival Ole Miss in a 10-10 contest. He threw for 115 yards on 11 completions, but his legs were the final dagger against the Rebels.
In overtime, instead of kicking a field goal to put the Bulldogs up by three, coach Dan Mullen opted to go for broke on fourth-and-1 inside the 5-yard line. The former Haughton High standout ran it in from 3 yards on the next play, winning the Egg Bowl for Mississippi State.
It was a glimpse of the potential of Prescott, who was 4-3 as a sophomore starter. Though he had to share time with then-senior Tyler Russell, Prescott took plenty of lessons from last year.
“I just got the experience. You can’t teach that,” he said Friday at the Manning Passing Academy. “You can’t teach getting in there and actually playing against these big SEC teams. I learned a lot about defenses and everything, and now I’m excited for this year.”
The junior has an opportunity to emerge as one of the elite signal callers in the conference. Only one returning SEC quarterback threw for more yards than Prescott in 2013: Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace with 3,346.
But despite passing for 1,940 yards and 10 touchdowns, Prescott has thrived with his legs. He led his squad with 829 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
That mobility has created problems with his foot mechanics, though, so he has shifted his attention on fixing his flaws this offseason.
“I wanted to have more consistent feet, or keeping my feet together,” he said. “I’ve been a dual-threat quarterback, but my feet can get a little out of hand. I’m working on keeping my feet under me and staying balanced and keeping my shoulders level. If I let my feet tell the story, then I think I’ll get better.”
To help with Prescott’s development, Mullen added a former quarterback to his staff: Brian Johnson. The 27-year-old, who was recruited by Mullen to play for Utah in 2003 and became the winningest quarterback in Utes history, had spent the past four seasons as an assistant in Salt Lake City.
As quarterbacks coach, Johnson began working with Prescott in February and throughout the spring, and he will continue his teaching when preseason camp starts in August. Prescott said Johnson has worked with every facet of the junior’s game, but he has especially looked to improve Prescott’s passing ability.
“He’s helped it a lot,” Prescott said. “He knows everything, and you can’t get away with the little things that a non-player or coach wouldn’t understand. He’s going to call out everything, and he’s a great coach. He was a great player, and I’m glad he’s my coach.”
With Johnson’s guidance, Prescott will look to make Mississippi State a dark horse in a conference that could lack firepower. He is expected to be the starter when the season opens Aug. 30 against Southern Miss, and he’ll likely be among the conference leaders in both passing and rushing at year’s end, barring any injuries.
But this season won’t be about the numbers.
“I just want to win,” Prescott said. “I want to be a good leader and team player and just help my team win every game we can. Whatever happens from there happens, but you’re not going to get anything if you’re a losing quarterback. At the end of the day, it’s about winning.”