The Great Mississippi Debate: Dak Prescott vs. Bo Wallace
Jon Cooper also contributed to this article.
Dak Prescott or Bo Wallace? It has become the great Mississippi debate.
A growing phenomenon is engulfing the Magnolia State: the Rebels and Bulldogs both have legitimate quarterbacks looking to become major factors in the SEC West this season.
MSUs Dak Prescott – savior of last year’s Egg Bowl – is a dynamic dual-threat quarterback with a chance to have a breakout junior season in 2014. Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace is a more traditional pocket passer and the conference’s most veteran starting quarterback entering this season. Both will have opportunities to turn their respective teams into darkhorse contenders in college football’s toughest division.
Let’s break down the signal callers:
Prescott holds a clear advantage over Wallace in this category.
The Bulldogs’ junior is Dan Mullen’s most dynamic dual-threat quarterback since Tim Tebow, and Prescott may have a stronger arm and better open-field running abilities than Tebow did.
Obviously, the players around him aren’t equal to what Tebow had, but Prescott may have more upside. He led MSU with 829 rushing yards in 11 games in 2013, clearing the 100-yard mark four different times. He’s the quintessential dual-threat signal caller.
Wallace, meanwhile, has rushed for just 745 yards over the last two seasons combined. He is not incapable as a runner, but his game is not predicated on his running abilities like Prescott’s is. The Rebels’ quarterback has plenty of redeeming qualities, but supreme athleticism is not one of them, at least not when compared to Prescott.
Advantage: Dak Prescott
Despite contrasting playing styles, both quarterbacks have proven throughout their careers that they have tremendous arms.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze has already joked this week that Wallace has a “new” problem over-throwing receivers on deep routes, indicating he has his improved his arm strength from last season.
And a stronger arm would benefit Wallace on more than just deep passes. The Rebels like to get the ball outside in a hurry, giving athletes like Laquon Treadwell the chance to make a play in space before the defense can react. A stronger arm means more velocity on Wallace’s passes, which should benefit the skill players around him.
Arm strength has never been an issue for Prescott either. The Bulldogs’ quarterback can make any throw on the field from inside or outside the pocket. To this point in his career he has been asked to do less as a passer than Wallace has, but his arm strength became evident as last season progressed, and Prescott is expected to take on a greater role as a passer in 2014.
Playing from the pocket is where Wallace shines brightest in the Rebels’ offense.
The veteran quarterback completed more than 64 percent of his 805 pass attempts over the last two seasons, many of which came from the pocket. Freeze loves for his offense to play at a fast pace, and as Wallace prepares to enter his third season as the Rebels’ signal caller he has grown comfortable making quick decisions from the pocket.
Prescott, however, is at his best when playing outside the pocket. With his deadly combination of arm strength and running ability, Prescott loves to keep defenses off-balance by playing from sideline to sideline, which does not leave him many opportunities to operate calmly from the pocket. He completed less than 59 percent of his 296 passes over the last two years, and ran for more touchdowns in that time (17) than he passed for (14).
Both team’s offenses run through their starting quarterbacks, but while the Bulldogs’ rely heavily on Prescott’s play outside the pocket, the Rebels’ offensive success will be determined largely by Wallace’s play in the pocket.
Advantage: Bo Wallace
It is important to note the difference between game-manager and playmaker. Prescott is the playmaker between the two quarterbacks as he possesses the skills to beat a defense in multiple ways on the same play.
But Wallace is the best game-manager in Mississippi. No one in the SEC has started more games at quarterback, and that experience will be invaluable in 2014 as Wallace aims to lead Ole Miss on a magical run through the SEC West. He’s used to the speed defenses like Alabama, Auburn and LSU bring to the field, and knows how to work around it. He’s used to the raucous crowds that flock to SEC stadiums every week and doesn’t let them overwhelm him.
Wallace knows what’s coming this year better than any other quarterback in the conference, while Prescott has yet to play a full season during his time in Starkville. The MSU star may be a more dynamic quarterback, but Wallace should begin the season as the SEC’s best game-manager.
Advantage: Bo Wallace
The coming season will be a tale of two quarterbacks in Mississippi. Wallace is the experienced pocket passer with one final chance to apply what he’s learned over the years and make a run at the SEC Championship Game. Prescott is the dynamic athlete whose strong arm and quick feet make him a prime suspect to burst on the SEC scene in 2014.
The hope among Ole Miss fans is that their quarterback returns more polished, and that he will keep mistakes to a minimum in the coming year.
Bulldogs’ fans, however, are hoping to see a more dynamic, aggressive Prescott with the ability to make plays and create opportunities on his own that keep the MSU offense moving.
Wallace may be a leader in the Ole Miss offense, but Prescott has the upside to carry the Bulldogs by himself, earning him the edge this preseason.
Overall Advantage: Prescott