I have to admit that I was surprised last week when MSU running back Josh Robinson declared for the NFL Draft. Not that I don't think Robinson is talented, but outside of State LB Benardrick McKinney, I expected all underclassmen Bulldogs to return this fall. The thing about Josh's decision, though, is that as a fan, I have to respect it and wish him the best. Often we may not agree with what a prospect or player chooses to do, but we have to respect their decision, because it's their life. I would have loved to see Josh back in maroon next year, and if you asked me, I think another year could benefit him; but, I understand his wishes, and I wish him nothing but the absolute best in the league and going forward in life.
Where Josh's decision is already made, MSU junior QB Dak Prescott still has his in front of him. There have been rumors, speculation, and everything in between as to whether Dak will return or not next year, but Dak did confirm that he has not made his decision just yet. Just like his Dakman and Robinson counterpart, Dak is the only one who can decide for himself what's best for him.
That won't stop me from at least attempting to sway Dak to come back for one more year, however.
My plea to Dak is a recipe that's one part selfish fan and two parts genuinely wanting what I think would be best for him. We can start with the selfish part: I want Dak back because I think with him in 2015, State has a chance to be even better than they were in 2014. A lot of people are already pointing out all the lost talent on the lines and the loss of Geoff Collins as a reason why MSU will step back in '15. But for me, I see the glass half full: that is, all the talent returning from the best MSU offense in school history last year.
I see De'Runnya Wilson, Fred Ross, and Fred Brown. I see Ashton Shumpert, Aeris Williams, and Dontavian Lee. I see a defense that will return more talent than people want to admit outside of the state of Mississippi. I also see the season hinging on Dak's return.
Take all that talent I listed above and insert a redshirt freshman into the equation and who knows what we'll get. I have all the faith in the world that Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley will be great for this program in the future, but there's no denying that State would likely (nothing is 100% certain, but it's most likely) take a step back with them leading the offense. With Dak back, though, State could be scary good in 2015. If MSU can get some young guys to step up on the offensive line, the sky is the limit with Dak back in the saddle.
While MSU will have to return trips to College Station and Auburn this fall, the schedule swings the three toughest games -- LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss -- back to Starkville, which also works in our favor. Insert Dak into the equation and I think another 10-2 season, although difficult, is possible. Put a green QB in there against those SEC defenses on the road, though, and MSU could be back battling for a bowl game. Just another reason 2015 could mean big things with #15 back under center (well, figuratively. I know he'd actually be taking snaps from the shotgun).
As I mentioned, though, I also want Dak to come back so that he can truly succeed. I'm far from the NFL's foremost expert on talent scouting, but I think Dak needs one more year. He grew in leaps and bounds as a passer last season, but I think he could use another season working on his footwork and route progression before he plays with the world's best at the next level. It's crazy to think that a player who was at one time last year at the front of the Heisman race could have even more untapped potential, but it's there. He just needs more time against college defenses -- good college defenses, because despite what bowl season may have shown, the SEC is still pretty decent -- to hone those skills in a bit further.
It also seems that Dak could be higher up the QB charts if he waits another season to enter the draft. This spring's draft will (probably) be dominated in the signal caller market by Heisman winners Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Flash forward anther year and you could have a more wide open market, at least for now, which could mean a higher selection for Dak, as teams always need QBs.
With that said, if Dak announces today that he's leaving, I would certainly understand. These guys put themselves on the line day in and day out for the price of a college education; all the while risking serious injury and the chance to spoil a future at the pro level. That's why Josh said he left, and as much as I hated to see him go, I can appreciate that concern for his future.
No matter what he decides, we'll always have 2014 to remember Dak by. The year didn't end the way we wanted it to, but that doesn't change one bit of the magic we all felt in October when we were, for the first time ever, king of the mountain. One player doesn't make a team, but we would never have ascended to #1 had it not been for Dak, so I'll always be grateful for what he's done for this school.
There's still plenty to accomplish though. Championships; records; another season to wear those sweet 100-year uniforms. Plenty of incentive exists for Prescott to return, and plenty of talent coming back around him that could help us go even higher than we went just a few months ago. Which ever side Dak's decision comes down on, I will respect it and wish him well. Just count me as one wishing that he decides to return next year: for us the fans and himself. The future is bright for Mississippi State, but it could be even brighter with its brightest start back under center next fall.