BOZEMAN — For all the throwing Dakota Prukop has done this summer, all the strength and conditioning work, all the video study, there’s something quite different that he says has made a big difference in his evolution as Montana State’s quarterback.
“A big thing for me in the past six months has been teaching,” said Prukop, who has given freely of his time in his hometown of Austin, Texas, working with young players who aspire to play the position. “I’ve had the opportunity to teach some kids how to throw. I’ve always heard the best way to master something is to teach it, that until you can teach something you can’t master it, and by no means am I saying I’m a master but those mental reps really translate over and it turns into a situation where no longer do I have to think about the big picture when I’m throwing routes… I can focus on the little things.”
As Prukop continues to hone the little things, it’s apparent the big things have fallen into line. Prukop heads to Big Sky Conference Media Day in Park City, Utah, this weekend as a Third Team Presason All-America. He was also named one of 22 entries on the first FCS Offensive Player of the Year Watch List, as named by STATS Inc. His 3,595 total yards and 31 touchdowns accounted for last season boosted him from first-year starting quarterback to nationally-recognized star.
Preseason awards reflect the quality of the program more than any individual, the junior said. “Of course it’s an honor,” he said, “it’s cool to be on that list. But really that just speaks highly of the team we’re playing for because you don’t make that award list unless you’re on a good team. I believe we have a really, really good team and that’s what this award attests to. We’ve got firepower all over the field, we have a great coaching staff, and it’s cool because it adds something else to the back of your mind when you’re working over the summer and preparing for the fall. It’s a bar that’s raised, a standard you’ve got to meet.”
The standards in place for the current Bobcat offense remain high. The team set records for total yards and points in 2014, and nine starters return this season. In fact, Montana State could line up a player at every offensive position with starting experience if all goes well between now and the September 3 opener against Fort Lewis.
“I hadn’t really thought about that,” Prukop admitted, saying that last year’s inexperience didn’t prove to be a hindrance but this years’ experience could be a boost. “This offense, this team, kind of rose to the occasion last year. Whatever was needed of our offense last year, we never had a doubt in our mind it could get done. Of course we fell short of our goals last year, but maybe that’s the difference, we have veterans all over the field now.”
Prukop has had plenty of company in summer workouts. The defense is well-represented, MSU’s veteran offensive line has dedicated itself to getting stronger, and Prukop has spent many hours throwing with the receivers and running backs. That includes the corps of productive young receivers who helped Prukop throw for more than 2,500 yards in 11 games a year ago.
“The same guys that were the young freshmen last year making plays will be veterans this year making plays,” he said. “It’s cool because you see guys accepting leadership roles, and I can speak for the offense but there’s no tugging and pulling to get people to come along. The guys that want to be here, the guys that have had success right next to you every step of the way, come to extra workouts, throwing, conditioning, whatever it is, they’re right there (in summer workouts). You can really see some of these guys maturing.”
While Prukop and offensive guard J.P. Flynn have garnered preseason All-America honors, MSU’s quarterback said that talk of individual honors and achievements never seeps into the locker room or weight room chatter. “Not on this team,” he said flatly. “I’ve had that question a couple of times, what do the guys think of this award or that article, but we don’t’ talk about that. I don’t know if it’s because we’re kind of used to it or if the guys believe it’s expected, because I do and I know the other captains do. We expect the best things out of this team. So when things like that come along it doesn’t seem like a big deal.”
Prukop will undergo interviews and photo sessions as part of the league’s Summer Kickoff next week before returning to Bozeman on Tuesday. On that day less than two weeks will remain until the team’s first practice on August 9.
— MSU Sports Information