Prescott's impeccable mechanics may take State to next stratosphere
Mississippi State University’s rise to prominence during the 2014-15 season undoubtedly was due to its ability to establish both lines of scrimmage.
While it may have appeared to the outside world that its procurement of the No. 1 ranking was mostly due to smoke and mirrors, it was to no surprise to those of us who are into the infrastructure of football.
Defensively, when you could trot out a line combination of P.J. Jones, Chris Jones, Preston Smith, A.J. Jefferson and Kaleb Eulls, chances were you were going to give the opposition fits with your ability to play in their backfield.
State proved it could compete with any team on the planet as it had the ability to stifle offenses on the ground and affect the comfortability of quarterbacks in the pocket.
But a great argument could be made that the offensive line was equally as effective despite not carrying the name value of its counterpart. Most recognize graduated center Dillon Day for his “roughneck” on-field style, which I dug as a former player, as it undoubtedly set the tone for one of the most physical offenses in existence.
But the driving force behind the success came from the stylings of Quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Josh Robinson, respectively. While Day in the crew established what type of game it would be, the punishing running style of both Prescott and Robinson was tough for any defense to deal with — especially in the fourth quarter.
Prescott received a lot of the praise, and deservedly so, as he captured the hearts of America behind his infectious style of play.
But one could argue that the stylings of Robinson was even more important as his completely galvanized the entire team. He was a true north-south runner who invited contact and often punished would-be defenders.
As someone who played on the defensive side of the ball, I’m here to tell you: Tackling a player built like Robinson (5’9″, 215 lbs), especially in the fourth quarter, is not something anyone wants to sign up for.
His 1,290 yards gained, on only 190 attempts, can not be glossed over as many were of the ultra-physical variety. And when you factor in his 11 touchdowns, it’s plainly evident how much he meant to the State program.
But it’s the 6’2″, 235-pound Prescott who was the Batman of the entire operation churning out 986 yards of his own — on an astounding 210 attempts. His ability to assist in the power-run game, often achieving first downs of the short-yardage variety, was the perfect complement to Robinson’s exploits.
A quick scan of the roster suggests junior RB Ashton Shumpert, all 6’2″, 218 pounds of him, can be the heir apparent to one Mr. Robinson behind his slashing style of play. But there’s no guarantee he will be as successful as his predecessor, and the same could be stated for other backs like Dontavian Lee and Aeris Williams.
While we know Prescott will continue to be a threat on the ground, it will be the talent in he possesses in his arm that may carry State back to the success it achieved last season.
And specifically the apparent improvement in his mechanics.
Mastering The Nuances
To say that Prescott wasn’t already a threat with his arm would be a flat-out lie as he racked up nearly 3,500 yards with 27 touchdowns, opposed to just 11 interceptions, in his first season as a full-time starter.
His 8.71 yards per completion is a telling statistic of how the run game assisted the vertical concepts of head coach Dan Mullen’s offensive scheme, but, conversely, so was his 61.1 completion percentage.
The returning receiving corps is filled with potential Sunday players with an inordinate amount of size.
The 6’5″, 215-pound De’Runnya Wilson is a nightmare for any defender who opposes him. He’s made a living in the vertical part of Mullen’s playbook, but it’s his ability to potentially dominate in the quick game that would help take State’s offense to the next stratosphere.
For Prescott, the annual spring game displayed how much he’s been working on his mechanics, which should go a long way to improving the efficiency of an offense with a ton of low-percentage throws.
This is why Prescott has to take it to the next level with hitches, slants, drags, curls, tunnels and bubbles to receivers, while making mincemeat out of flares, wheels and delayed screens to the RBs.
And by all accounts that’s exactly what’s happening.
All of those aforementioned routes are virtually an extension of the run game where targets have the ability to manufacture additional yardage upon completion.
To be accurate with these type of throws you have to possess the ability to vary your throwing speed. Touch, anticipation and accuracy is the name of the game on plays like in the above sequence.
You’d be surprised how hard it is to throw a swing pass with touch and accuracy when you have defenders in your face.
Prescott showed the ability to marry his feet to his eyes even when he scanned the reads in his progressions.
Just check at at how great Prescott looked in the above sequence: He actively looked off a third-level defender, proceeded to scan his progression from left to right, evaded the breached part of the pocket and delivered a strike while on the move.
Additionally, he displayed proper balance by maintaining a slight bend in his knee while standing tall in his scan phase; he squared his shoulders to the target to ensure accuracy on the throw.
Most fans associate quarterbacking with the ability to generate explosive plays in the vertical game, but what mostly separates the have and have-nots is in their ability to complete chain-moving throws into small windows.
Case in point: Look how Prescott glanced off the safety, scanned his primary read and threw the receiver open — in an ultra-tight window — on a quick in-breaking route, no less.
What really stood out to me was the fact that a clear running lane opened up and he still properly went through his progressions while staying in the pocket.
We already know that Prescott has the ability to strap a team on his back with his insane play-making ability, however, he’s apparently gone back to the lab and focused on the nuances of the position which will only enhance State’s prospects on offense (literally and figuratively).
If State can get Prescott’s completion percentage up past 65 percent, or even around 70 percent, it will have meant that Prescott’s improved mechanics helped him become even more effective in the quick game — which would ultimately help out for the potential loss on the ground.
And we know that would be bad news for those predicting a precipitous drop off in production and success for the Bulldogs.