Mississippi State kicks off spring practice on Tuesday, and that means the SEC's most underrated quarterback will be on the field.
Quarterback Dak Prescott.
The rising junior for the Bulldogs stepped in for an injured Tyler Russell last season and promptly threw for 1,940 yards and tossed 10 touchdowns, adding 829 yards and 13 more scores on the ground.
That was as a midseason Band-Aid.
Now, the 6'2", 230-pound native of Haughton, La. has the keys to the bus in head coach Dan Mullen's offense—which thrives with a dual-threat bruiser at quarterback. He has a solid arm, is willing to take on tacklers as a running back and now has an entire offseason as the unquestioned starter to grow himself and expand the offense.
Because of that, expect even bigger things from Prescott in 2014.
On top of that, he has a supporting cast full of established weapons, including the SEC's leading returning receiver in Jameon Lewis (923 yards, five touchdowns) and running back Josh Robinson, who ran for 459 yards and three touchdowns in a backup role last year.
"He's working harder now than I've ever seen him work before, which says a lot because he's one of the hardest-working guys on our team," Mullen told ESPN.com's Edward Aschoff last month.
If all goes well and he leads his team to a few key upsets, he could emerge as a dark-horse Heisman candidate, as I stated in late January.
|Dak Prescott by Season|
|Year||Comp.||Att.||Comp. %||Pass Yds.||TDs||INTs||Rush Yds||Rush TDs|
For the first time since he was hired prior to the 2009 season, Mullen has a quarterback who can run the full offense that got him the job in Starkville in the first place.
Sure, Russell was solid as a passer and Chris Relf was solid in this offense. But neither of them had the upside of Prescott—at least in terms of upside within the framework of the Bulldog scheme.
The one aspect of Prescott's game that needs some work is the downfield passing attack. A 7.3 yards-per-attempt average is solid as a Band-Aid but probably won't cut it long term.
Can you imagine what the offense will look like if Prescott does find a way to stretch the field?
Passing lanes will open up over the middle, running lanes will part like the Red Sea and Prescott will have even more room to work his magic.
With Southern Miss, UAB and South Alabama on the schedule before traveling to LSU, Prescott and the Bulldogs not only have time to develop the offense this spring but the opportunity to either test out new wrinkles in game settings prior to that trip to Red Stick or save things for Les Miles and the Tigers.
Prescott is already a proven winner, and he's on the cusp of becoming a full-fledged superstar.
Don't be surprised to see him take that leap in 2014.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com.