Mississippi State sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott made the most of his first career start for the Bulldogs in the place of injured starter Tyler Russell, but Dan Mullen’s team may be better off with him starting. Prescott accounted for two touchdowns through the air and one more on the ground, exhibiting the skills that made him a coveted recruit out of Louisiana in the win over Alcorn State.
Russell was injured in the opening week loss to Oklahoma State with a concussion, but he has been ineffective prior to the injury dating back to the second half of last year. Russell has thrown 10 interceptions in his past seven starts, in which the Bulldogs are 1-6.
The fifth-year senior was supposed to be a leader on this young team, but his production may be better in a relief role similar to the one he played when Chris Relf was the starter. Relf was a similar player to Prescott, who was a run-first quarterback who could run Mullen’s style of the spread offense, but Prescott has much more of an arm than Relf ever had in his wildest dreams.
Russell would come in certain passing situations and even started at the tail end of Relf’s time in Starkville, but he just doesn’t seem to be showing any marked improvement and a change needed to be made. The old adage is you can’t lose your job to injury, but tell that to Alex Smith, who lost his job as the San Francisco 49ers quarterback to Colin Kaepernick after he suffered a concussion last year.
I’m not saying Russell should grab a clipboard and forget about playing a meaningful role in his last year of college, but the offense needs a new look in what has become a predictable unit. Russell can still be a valuable contributor for this team when he is cleared to return to the team, but Prescott gives the team the best chance to win as the starter.
Mullen tells The Reflector, “Dak has had a big leadership role amongst our team already. When Dak goes into it, the guys see him as someone who has been in a leadership role all year.”
Russell can go back to the role he had when Relf was running the offense and come in and provide a downfield passing threat. His lack of mobility severely hampers what this offense can run and Prescott has the elusiveness, speed and size to excel.
It’s a difficult decision to bench a fifth-year senior who has meant so much to Mullen and Mississippi State over the years, but it’s a tough sport that requires tough decisions, and that’s why Mullen paid the way he does.
The additional experience Prescott gains this season will pay off immeasurably next year when he is the unquestioned starter, and Mississippi State can get a glimpse of their future again next Saturday. Prescott should start at Auburn whether Russell is healthy or not.