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Future at Quarterback Bright for MSU

Dak Prescott wasn't the only qb that stood out this spring. It was a stellar spring for redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Fitzgerald as well. What does this mean in the big picture?

Mississippi State University |

Spring practice in college football is often over-analyzed and blown out of proportion by a large number of fans and media. Many try to make predictions for certain players for the upcoming season and base those predictions off what happened in spring practices and in the spring game.

That can be a big mistake because of a lot of different variables. Coaches are mixing and matching to see what works best, it's only the base offense and defense being run for the most part, and when it comes to the game, it is naturally set up to make skill position players look good and score a bunch of points for the fans.

Just because a player has an impressive spring game or even shows flashes an entire spring, doesn't mean it will carry over to the next season. Take Joe Morrow for example. That guy lit the world on fire in the spring of 2012 and everyone immediately placed extremely high expectations on him. He would go on to catch a grand total of five passes the next season.

A lot of people, including myself, saw what he did that spring and banked on him becoming one of the top deep-threat receivers on the team early in his career. It took a lot longer than most people expected, but Morrow finally started to find a role and make an impact in the offense during the 2014 season.

But the point remains, you really have to be hesitant as a fan to get excited about a player just because he looked the part in April. With that being said, there is one position that can be evaluated with a relative amount of certainty when it comes to trying to predict a depth chart.

That position is quarterback. Sure, qb's are protected during the spring for the most part and the hits on them are limited. But let's be honest, the ability to read a defense and make good throws is a skill that a player either has already or he doesn't. Some are smart enough to do it right when they arrive on campus, and it takes others until their junior or senior season to fully develop.

Everyone already knew what Dak Prescott was all about. He's a Heisman candidate that will return as the best quarterback in the SEC and one of the best in the country. There was nothing he could really do this spring to change those expectations one way or another.

So the focus became what the future at the position would look like, and what the team may look like next year should the greatest quarterback in the school's history go down with an injury. Knock on wood.

With Damian Williams and Elijah Staley both dealing with injuries, the door swung wide open for reshirt freshman Nick Fitzgerald to make a run at the #2 spot. The 6'5 230 pounder did not disappoint and may have solidified himself as the clear backup behind Dak Prescott.

After showcasing the ability all spring to run the offense both through the air and on the ground like a typical Dan Mullen qb should do, Fitzgerald showed the fans on Saturday what all the hype was about.

He made some strong throws, scrambled at the right times to make plays with his feet, and showed poise under pressure standing in the pocket. Fitz finished the game 20 of 30 for 255 yards and two touchdowns. He also added a touchdown on the ground.

Coach Mullen compared Fitzgerald to a former player of his and a #1 draft pick in Alex Smith. As athletic as Fitz looks running the ball, that comparison is not all that unreasonable.

So what does his stellar spring ultimately mean? Does it mean that he will take over once Dak leaves and bring the same type of production? Only time will tell. Does it mean that he will automatically be the first man off the bench in 2015 if Dak gets hurt? Not necessarily.

What it does mean is that MSU has more depth at the quarterback position than they have in a long time, perhaps ever.

Any time you have the best quarterback in the SEC you can probably feel good about the season you will have, but depth is just as important. When you have two players behind your star that are capable of stepping up when their name is called, it means you can still run your offense with no restraints if they have to come in.

Many people forget about Damian Williams and have already written him off because of the emergence of Fitzgerald. Williams didn't look all that impressive in his few meaningless snaps last year, but we shouldn't forget what he accomplished in 2013.

He was a critical part of those last two regular season victories against Arkansas and Ole Miss, and the bowl game may have never happened if it wasn't for him playing with so much poise as a true freshman. It's unfortunate that he may lose his spot because of an injury, but nonetheless, Williams' prior experience and the coming out party for Fitzgerald only means loads of depth for the 2015 season.

We haven't even begun to talk about big Elijah Staley, who has the strongest arm on the team by most accounts. He is behind Fitzgerald when it comes to knowing the playbook and understanding what it takes to play quarterback in the SEC, but Staley is a better option as a fourth string qb than most teams out there have. That's for sure.

We will have to wait until fall camp to see how things shake out, but this appears to be the best overall group of quarterback's MSU has had on campus at one time. I won't be unrealistic and think this team will win nine games if Dak goes down with an injury. I won't expect these guys to be superstars and even come close to what Dak has done anytime soon, but I will say with confidence that the future at quarterback is looking bright for Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs.