Quarterbacks Prepped For Scrimmage Show

Sure, there is going to be a little extra zest for Bulldog quarterbacks when they report to Scott Field this evening. They aren’t the only ones eager to show their stuff in the first full scrimmage of fall camp. Coach Brian Johnson is about as excited as his players. “Yeah! Any time you get a chance to play it’s fun.”

This amped-attitude oughtn’t surprise anyone of course. Johnson is still relatively new to Mississippi State, so just about everything about this preseason is some sort of ‘first’. The larger aspect though is that expectations for his particular position group is sky-high already. Not just because in Dak Prescott he has a genuine star-in-making and inspirational leader; but Johnson also has a true soph who has won a SEC ball game already in Damian Williams.

Then there are two big-skills and big-bodies freshmen taking their own turns in practices, and who both want to put on their own show for coaches and club this evening. “Those guys get a chance to go out there on our field and play the game of football,” Johnson said. “It will be a fun time, it’s an exciting time for them and we’re looking forward to seeing what everybody is able to do when they get into a live situation.”

How are freshmen quarterbacks Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley doing? “You know, as with any freshman handling the install is probably the biggest transition. The amount of information that we present to those guys in a ten-day span is quite a bit. The key for them is to study, study, study, study. And they have to take a lot of mental reps even when they’re not actually participating. Their minds have to constantly be working, constantly straining your brain to handle the information. The thing about those young guys, they are a talented group. Both of them have a ton of talent so they still have a ton of progress to make, but they’ve done a nice job so far.”

As a first-year coach how much can you delegate to Dak Prescott and Damian Williams? “Well, those guys understand that being a starting quarterback is an inherent position of leadership. Not only for our team but especially in our (meeting) room. And they’ve done a great job of taking in the young guys, helping those guys understand what it takes to be successful at this level of football. So they’ve done a good job of that.”

Is this an enjoyable point of camp that you can work both veteran and new quarterbacks without focusing on game preparation? “Yeah, there’s a ton of reps to go around right now. So those guys have gotten multiple opportunities to go out there and perform and showcase what they can do. That hasn’t been an issue for us at all.”

What has it been like for you working under Coach Mullen? “It’s been great. I can’t say enough about the staff that we have here, I really enjoy the guys that we work with. And it’s great. I’ve got a great group of young men. I love the direction of the program, the leadership of the program under Coach Mullen has been first class since the day I got here. I can’t say enough about how excited I am to be a part of this program.”

What do you want to see from the quarterbacks in the first scrimmage? “Clean execution. The biggest thing in order to be successful at this position is you have to process information. I want to see those guys translate that from the meeting room to the practice field, to Davis Wade Stadium. We have to process information, execute at a high level, take care of the football, and make some plays.”

Coach Mullen has talked about stretching the field, what are you looking for with the deep ball? “The biggest thing is they have to understand matchups. We talk about to win in this league you have to beat man coverage. And we feel like we’ve got some guys that are able to stretch the field. For us it’s giving those guys an opportunity to go make a play and not being afraid to take that matchup and giving our guy the chance to go up and get the football.”

Is that repetition and chemistry, where to throw and how far, timing? “Yeah. I think that goes into it. Also understanding leverage and body position. And manipulating the ball in a way that it’s away from the defender, in simplest terms. They understand that and they’ve done a good job of finishing stuff up. They did a good job with it this morning.”

What does walk-on Josiah Phillips bring? “Josiah has been great to have in our room. I can’t say enough about the type of young man that he is. And he’s one of the guys, he’s been great to have around. And it’s interesting, he didn’t play eleven-man football in high school. So the concept of playing eleven-man football to him is new and the guys have done a great job of helping him understand. When he’s gotten a chance he’s got some reps in there, he’s showed he knows what to do.”

What progress have you seen from Damian Williams? “Comparatively speaking with last year’s camp just talking to him, he’s obviously a lot more confident and comfortable with what we’re doing as an offense. You can just see the experience, that he is starting to generate the leadership qualities that he has. He’s done a good job and you can tell that he’s becoming a more mature player. We’ve just got to continue to keep progressing.”

There are a lot of outside expectations for Dak Prescott, how do you handle those? “Dak’s mature. He’s been around for a really long time now, he’s experienced. And he’s not naïve to that stuff by any stretch of the imagination. But he understands that there is work to be done. And when it’s all said-and-done you can quote Dak and talk about it. But you have to be so laser-focused in on that very moment of what you’re trying to accomplish at that point in time that you really don’t have time for outside distractions. You can’t let yourself get distracted and he’s mature enough to handle that.”

Is the offense working more up-tempo this fall? “No, we’re just doing our deal as Coach Mullen wants us to. He’s a great offensive mind and he’s done a good job with what we’ve run. We’re going to run our same stuff.”

Below is the rest of the media opp interview with Coach Johnson

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