Battle for Bulldogs’ Backup Quarterback


Nov 22, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Damian Williams (11) advances the ball during the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Spring Football games don’t interest me very much. I’m an exception to that rule, and I am very well aware of it. Most of the time, the depth chart has already been set, and whoever is going to start won’t be changed because of a performance that took place in March or April. There is one aspect to this year’s game that makes it much more intriguing.

Mississippi State’s backup quarterback last year was Damian Williams. He received very few snaps last year, but he received more than most of us thought he would because Dan Mullen made a commitment to get the second string offense and defense plenty of playing time in the early nonconference portion of the schedule. When he played, he really didn’t do too much to impress people. Williams didn’t do anything to hurt the Bulldogs’ chances of winning games, but he also didn’t do anything to improve their chances of winning games either.

Williams will not likely be surpassed on the official depth chart this spring or even during the 2015 season. Dak Prescott will be the starter and receive all of the significant playing time at quarterback, unless there is an injury. I don’t even want to think about that, so let’s just not.

The reason the spring game is interesting is because it will be the first time we see one of the quarterbacks Dan Mullen signed as part of the 2014 Recruiting Class. Elijah Staley and Nick Fitzgerald were both signed in that class. Both were redshirted in 2014, but the level the two have contributed has been vastly different.

Both Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley planned to graduate early and enroll after the fall semester of their senior years. Only Fitzgerald did, and he was participating in bowl practices. Staley ended up staying for the remainder of his senior year at Wheeler H.S. playing basketball. It allowed Fitzgerald to participate in Spring practices and the 2014 Spring Game.

Many thought that gave Fitzgerald a leg up on becoming the eventual replacement for Dak, and Staley has struggled with injuries since joining the program. Staley has participated in Spring practice this year, but he has been limited in what he can do. I have yet to hear if Mullen is going to let Staley participate this weekend with a number of restrictions on what the defense can do to him.

Knowing all of this, expect most of the playing time at quarterback to go to Williams and Fitzgerald. We know what Dak is capable in a game setting, but we don’t really know what to expect from Williams or Fitzgerald. Dak will likely play no more than a quarter, and is more likely to only play a series Saturday.

If Fitzgerald comes out and has a great game, it will only put more pressure on Williams from a public perception standpoint to step up his game. He has far more experience than any other quarterback outside of Prescott. That can’t be discounted, but he is behind both Fitzgerald and Staley when it comes to talent.

It’s not as critical that Dak Prescott’s successor be determined in 2015, but it is important for everyone who will be trying to take his spot know where they stand as they enter the 2016 season. We will have a really good idea what we have on the roster after this week’s spring game.