There’s been discussion lately, over the lack of running from Dak Prescott. Many are concerned that the offense will not be able to get moving unless we see Dak running like he did last year. Mullen was hired and Dak Prescott was brought in to help recreate the spread option offense that Mullen and his head coach Urban Meyer used to dominate their competition from their Bowling Green days all the way through Florida in 2008. Mullen and Meyer were able to succeed in just about every atmosphere and against just about every defense they faced. However, I believe we do not need to see a traditional version of Dan Mullen’s offense for several key reasons this year.
We have offensive line and running back questions right now. Mullen’s offense is built around the running game, and last year we were able to control the line of scrimmage and use Josh Robinson to gash even some of the most impressive defenses last year. Many assumed we would be able to plug in replacements for those that graduated or went pro but that unfortunately has not been the case thus far into the season.
The option running game will not be effective unless these questions are answered. And because we haven’t been able to establish a running back thus far, it would be pointless to try and force Dak to run more out of these option plays because the opposing defenses would simply be able to key in on him. With everybody expecting him to run the ball, it would be easy to see defenses lock in on Dak and deliver an unnecessary beating to our quarterback.
Secondly, our offense is built differently this year. Last year, our best offensive weapon outside of Prescott was Josh Robinson. This year, our best weapon lies in the receiving corps with Bear Wilson, Fred Ross, and Fred Brown, as well as tight end Gus Walley. This offense is built more to be able to pass the ball. Last year, our receivers were good, but there is a clear talent and experience difference between this year and last.
In the LSU game, we saw this quartet really develop as the game wore on, with Wilson racking up 8 receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown. Ross was able to snag a team leading 9 catches for 66 yards. Walley was right there between them with 7 receptions for 67 yards. Fred Brown rounds out this group with only 3 receptions but served as a bit of a deep threat as he racked up 53 yards for an average of 17.7 yards with the longest reception of the game of 33 yards. These guys had the talent to succeed against a very tough LSU secondary. They should be able to go up against just about any other secondary in the SEC and potentially the nation.
My third point is based off another complaint many MSU fans have had: a lack of tempo. Last year, MSU had one of the fastest offenses in the nation. It was a thing of beauty. They were able to move quickly up and down the field, scoring seemingly at will. Over the offseason, we heard how the offense was supposed to be even faster. That hasn’t been the case thus far. With the team struggling to get a running game established, LSU was able to force State into punting several times in the first half.
When MSU was able to attack through the air, they had scoring drives where the time of possession never went over 4 and a half minutes, with the average time of possession for the scoring drives being 2 minutes and 44 seconds. This isn’t as fast as many, including myself, would like to see this offense operate. But, the fact that this team was able to pick up the pace on these drives as they operated through the air, is something that we need to pay attention to.
And back to our lack of a running game from our running backs. It’s been well noted that many teams like to establish their passing game through play action passing once they have their running attack going. This is a traditional approach to developing an offense in a game. MSU needs to do the reverse of this process. We’ve seen our running backs (and Dak when has attempted it) struggle running against a loaded box.
It’s important for MSU to clear that out. If teams are forced to fight against a powerful passing attack, they will take defenders away from guarding against the run. This would give our struggling line a chance at clearing running lanes for Shumpert, Holloway, and, yes, even Dak to gain more rushing yards.
Many are going to point out the fact that MSU hasn’t had success through the air in the past. It’s true. Others will look at Dak’s specialty being his legs and running game. And through his career that is also true. But we shouldn’t be afraid of a quarterback and an offense that will throw it often. It is our best hope at being successful this year.
So, with this game and the rest of the season coming up, when you feel tempted to yell at your television screen for Dak to take off running, remember, that isn’t our best shot at winning. At least not right now.
Contrary to Ethan’s beliefs, I believe that Dak Prescott should start running more in 2015.
Looking at last year, Dak Prescott was Mississippi State’s second leading rusher, rushing for 986 yards and 14 touchdowns from 210 carries. Those 14 touchdowns on the ground led the team.
Last year, Dak Prescott’s running game was one of, if not the main reason, why Mississippi State was a legitimate national title contender late into November and why Dak Prescott was the Heisman favorite for a majority of the year.
This year, it seems as if Dak Prescott’s running game is being taken away. Whether it be his choice or Dan Mullen’s choice, no one knows. I have a theory on this, and it could be completely off or right on the money, but here it is.
The NFL doesn't favor dual threat quarterbacks. The quintessential NFL quarterback is a pocket passer who doesn't run a spread offense, throws the ball and gives it to a running back. If Dak Prescott were to enter the NFL and be successful, he needs to develop these kind of skills. So far this season, we’re seeing Dak Prescott do a significant majority of his work through the air and not on the ground. He currently has rushed for 53 yards and two touchdowns from 18 carries, which is just 2.9 yards per rush.
Now, another reason that Dak should get back to his running ways is his coach, Dan Mullen. When Dan Mullen was hired at Mississippi State, it was a hire that was meant to bring offense to the Bulldog program. At the time Mullen was hired, Mississippi State was crippled with god awful offenses under Sylvester Croom and Woody McCorvey. If Mississippi State wanted offense, Dan Mullen was the man to bring it. He made his living off of Tim Tebow at Florida. He made a living helping develop Tim Tebow into one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all time. Now, what kind of offense does Dan Mullen specialize in?
What kind of offense was Tim Tebow, a dual threat, running quarterback, made for?
Dak Prescott is a dual threat, running quarterback. What kind of offense is he made for?
I’ll compare this to the 2012 season. Out of high school, Tyler Russell was a four star, highly touted quarterback who was a great pro style quarterback. Russell got his chance to be the full time starter in 2012. The 2012 offense for Mississippi State wasn't a great one. The Bulldogs averaged 29.5 points per game and 381.9 yards per game.
Let’s compare that to 2014. Last year, the Bulldog offense averaged 36.9 points per game and 513.8 yards per game. Significantly better than 2012.
The biggest reason for this was the quarterback. Tyler Russell specialized in a pro style offense; he was a pocket passer who couldn't run. Dak Prescott specializes in the spread; he’s a dual threat who can throw and run.
What kind of offense does Dan Mullen specialize in? The spread. In my opinion, the 2012 offense struggled because Tyler Russell was a good quarterback in the wrong system. The 2014 offense shined because Dak Prescott is a good quarterback in the perfect system.
So, if the perfect offense for Dak Prescott is the spread, where he can throw and run, he needs to do both of those things. If Dak becomes a pass-based quarterback, he will become a good quarterback who isn't running the right system.
In addition, last year, Mississippi State had a big time running back in Josh Robinson. This year, we thought he would be replaced by Ashton Shumpert. Well, so far this year, our leading rusher is Brandon Holloway, and he has totaled just 88 yards from 12 carries. That’s it. That’s our leading rusher.
As was shown last season, we obviously know that Dak Prescott can run. If we can’t get any production from our running backs, let Dak get some production on the ground.
In my opinion, the run game was the most important part of our offense in 2014. If we want to get back to that in any way, we need to establish a running game. So far, our running backs can’t do anything, so we need Dak to get something going. If we have no run game, our offense doesn't click. If we don’t have a quarterback that runs Dan Mullen’s specialty offense, our offense doesn't click. It showed in the LSU game. Over 300 yards passing. Just 43 yards rushing. Did our offense click?
We need Dak to get back to his dual threat, running ways, or we could be in for a long year offensively.