When Tyler Russell went down on the field late in the game against Oklahoma State Saturday with a head injury, the initial reaction on the Mississippi State sideline was a mix of fear and concern for their senior quarterback.
After a few seconds though, when Russell didn’t immediately get up and it became clear he needed medical attention, Prescott was forced to turn away from the man he considers a brother and start getting ready. He was about to go in.
Prescott threw some passes on the sideline to get warmed up while the attention was focused on the quarterback still on the ground.
Finally, after a worry-filled few minutes, Russell walked off under the guidance of trainers.
“That’s my brother,” Prescott said. “When he went down I was scared. As he walked off, I tapped him and he said he’s gonna be alright, so I went in there and just tried to help my team.”
On that Saturday, Prescott’s chance was unexpected. This Saturday, he knows it’s coming, as he’s the expected starter in place of the injured Russell.
“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s an opportunity I’ve been waiting for. It’s not the exact circumstances I’d like, but I’m gonna make the most of the opportunity.”
He’ll have a big stage and ample freedom to do so, but even if he lacked for confidence (he doesn’t), Prescott’s teammates have been quick to say, this isn’t a typical backup.
In fact, even his coach Dan Mullen has offered praise for Prescott, not just as a player, but as a person.
In the offseason, Mullen told reporters Monday, Russell and Prescott worked off of each other, both assuming leadership roles.
The quarterback position is different, no matter who it is throwing passes. He’s the assumed captain and the center of attention, like it or not.
So, even with one an entrenched starter and the other the clear backup, Russell and Prescott are on equal ground with their teammates, held to that quarterback standar.
“Dak’s a rah-rah guy,” Mullen said. “Dak has had a big leadership role amongst our team already. So when Dak goes to rally the team as a leader, they’re used to seeing that.”
“Dak is a guy that you rally around,” sophomore tight end Brandon Hill agreed. “You migrate toward him because he’s got that energy.”
That energy will be interesting to watch on Saturday, too, not just during and after plays, but before them.
Mullen says Prescott can run all of the same parts of the offense that Russell can, and blocking by the offensive line on a run play is still blocking on a run play, no matter who hands the ball off.
However, pre-snap, there are changes with a new quarterback.
“It really is totally different,” junior center Dillon Day said. “Dak is kind of a hyper guy. He’s ready to attack stuff. Tyler’s kinda laid back more. They say their cadence a little bit different. And they do feel your butt a little different.”
Having chemistry is important, Day continued. Both he and the QB call out protections and if, for example, a running back gets the wrong message, it can ruin the entire play.
“It’s a new butt, you know?” Prescott explained with a laugh. “I just like to get going, I like my energy.”
As for Prescott the quarterback, the easy observation has been that he’s primarily a runner, while Russell is the superior passer.
“That is wrong, because he’s very much a precision passer,” Hill said. “He’s pretty much got the same weapons as Tyler, he’s just a little bit more physical running the ball. Pretty much, they’re tit-for-tat.”
As Mullen and teammates have said, they feel comfortable running the same offense with Prescott in, despite the differences in he and Russell, something Mullen said made them significantly more at ease when Prescott was forced into action in Houston.
There was never a panic, he said, or even a worry amongst the coaching staff about taking plays out of the game plan. He can do it all when called upon, Mullen opined.
“That to me shows a lot of what Dak is and how he’s prepared himself,” Mullen said.
Of course, just because they can keep the same offense for Prescott, doesn’t necessarily mean they will. As Hill and others have noted, Prescott certainly has a running ability many quarterbacks do not, offering another wrinkle to an offense in search of production.
So, new butts and all, whether Prescott runs the same or different, is in for one week or five, his preparation has both he and his team confident going into Saturday.
“Dak’s a great quarterback,” Day said. “He’s still a young guy and he hasn’t played too much, but he knows everything to do. He’s real smart.”