HOOVER, Ala. — Here’s a fun party game for anyone steeped in SEC history: Pick an SEC school and start rattling off that school's great college or pro quarterbacks.
Alabama has Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, AJ McCarron. Tennessee has Peyton Manning and Heath Shuler. Auburn has Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton. Even Vanderbilt has Jay Cutler.
Where does that list begin and end for Mississippi State?
The only Bulldogs quarterback to reach the SEC championship game completed fewer than half of his passes. The last Mississippi State All-SEC quarterback ended up playing running back in the NFL. In the modern era, Mississippi State has only three All-SEC first-teamers at the position. Never mind a 4,000-yard passer, Mississippi State is the only program in the SEC that hasn’t produced a 3,000-yard passer in a season.
This may be the season Mississippi State has a quarterback star it can finally call its own.
Dak Prescott has started only seven games in his career, but it speaks to that quarterback history that junior from Haughton, La., has a realistic chance to be the best Starkville has produced.
“It’s one one of those things where State fans go into it with a little bit of apprehension,” said Matt Wyatt, a Mississippi State quarterback from 1996-99 and now the color analyst on the Bulldogs’ broadcast team. “We’ll see it and then believe how good someone is because we’ve never really had a great one.”
When Mississippi State signed Prescott, coach Dan Mullen could tout his quarterback proteges from other stops — Alex Smith at Utah and Tim Tebow at Florida. The brag sheet of great Mississippi State passers wasn’t there.
That was enough to get Prescott to Starkville, but it may not be enough for other prep quarterbacks.
“I don’t really pay attention to the past,” Prescott said. “I control my destiny. If I can get better I don’t worry about it. I know coach Mullen has coached some good guys, and that’s all that matters to me.”
This is not to say Prescott could be an All-SEC first-teamer. Auburn’s Nick Marshall, Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace and Missouri’s Maty Mauk may have a head start, to say nothing about the quarterbacks at Alabama, Georgia or South Carolina.
This is not to say Prescott could be Mississippi State’s first 3,000-yard passer, even in an age where crossing that benchmark and more is commonplace even in the SEC grind. He may end up too productive in the run game and read option to put up prolific passing numbers. Prescott is a dual threat who passed for 2,134 yards and rushed for 947.
Prescott’s accuracy in the deep passing game needs work, but if he can add that to his repertoire, he may be the complete package.
For a quarterback, he doesn’t shy away from hits, earning the respect of his defensive teammates. More than that, Prescott impressed teammates by playing against Texas A&M in November last season, less than a week after he lost his mother Peggy to a long bout with colon cancer.
Prescott said it was the toughest time of his life but told his teammates that his mom would want him to play.
“When he lost his mom, you didn’t know something was wrong with him,” linebacker Bernardrick McKinney said.
That determination may bode well for a quarterback with a chance to do things no one else at Mississippi State has done.
“Everyone wants their name in the history books, but it’s not something I’m looking for,” Prescott said. “I don’t want to have the most yards in Mississippi State history. I want to be the winningest quarterback in Mississippi State history.”