QB Whisperer? Not anymore. Thanks to Dak, Dan Mullen can shout to the world
HOOVER, Ala. — Dan Mullen has long been known as a QB guru.
He can drop names like few other college coaches, from developing Alex Smith into a No. 1 overall draft pick to turning Tim Tebow into a Heisman Trophy winner. Different styles, different leagues, similar dominance.
But Dak Prescott’s overnight NFL stardom has given college football’s “QB Whisperer” a megaphone to shout his message, and Mullen took full advantage Tuesday during SEC Media Days.
So what’s Mullen’s secret?
“First thing you want to look for is intangibles,” he said in laying out how he recruits and develops quarterbacks. “Mental, physical toughness, leadership, decision-making, processing information, all those sorts of things. Then you want to look at certain skill-sets. Do they have skills that are hard to teach? If they have those, those are great because they’re hard to teach. Then you look at do they have the potential to grow in the skills you can teach? If you can find those guys and they have a work ethic and a demeanor, want to improve, you can look and say, ‘I can improve you to this level.'”
The one thing he can’t do is hurry the process. As rapid as Prescott’s rise appeared, it was very much a four-year journey.
“There’s no immediate jump,” he said. “I can’t take you from here to here in a day. It’s a very, very long process, especially at the quarterback position. Drew Brees and Tom Brady are still developing. You understand that.
“I remind Dak Prescott of that now, ‘Hey, you going to be a better quarterback this year than you were last year because you continue to develop every single day to be the best you can be.’
“If you’re at a certain level today, you have the opportunity to be just a little bit better tomorrow. That’s the path you have to take instead of taking huge steps. That’s what we do with quarterbacks.”
Mullen has developed enough quarterbacks to get any recruit’s attention, but he concedes Prescott’s NFL success has provided an unexpected boost.
“One, it gets a lot of name recognition,” he said. “You say Dak, it’s hard to be a one-name person. People see that. They’ll go back and they’ll realize, here was this 2-, 3-star player out of high school who wasn’t that heavily recruited. How did he become the guy he is today?”
Mullen is all to happy to explain the process. It starts, he said, with the initial conversation.
“When we get a call from a high school quarterback, we’ll go through the steps of what it takes to go be successful,” Mullen said. “Some people can talk to you about it. I can sit there and say, OK, Alex Smith was a 1-star … I had Tim Tebow, he was a 5-star … Dak was a 2-, 3-star. He was successful.”
Bulldogs fans have seen similar development from Nick Fitzgerald, who was the No. 1,566 player in the 2015 class. Last July, nobody knew whether Fitzgerald would win the starting job. A year later, he’s being mentioned as a dark-horse to win the Heisman.
Just another limb on Mullen’s quarterback tree. The key, he said, is the player’s willingness to grind, to put in the work necessary to transform his game.
“I’m not as concerned with where you are,” Mullen said of recruiting rankings, “but these are the demands and expectations I’m going to have to play the quarterback position. If that’s what you’re looking for, come play for me. …
“These are the things we do well, here’s where we have to improve. This is what I’m going to demand and expect from you. If that’s what you’re looking for … obviously it’s not being talked about, here’s the proof of how it’s worked from all of these different players in the past. If that excites you, come play for Mississippi State.”