April 20, 2018 1:44:28 AM
STARKVILLE -- Joe Moorhead still gets starstruck. He felt it when he called Dak Prescott.
Prescott is one of three former Mississippi State football players coming back to Davis Wade Stadium for the Maroon & White Game Saturday as guest captains, joining cornerback Johnthan Banks and offensive lineman Gabe Jackson. Banks is back in Starkville now as an assistant coach at Starkville High School while Jackson continues his career as an Oakland Raider, and Moorhead credited associate athletic director of communications Bill Martin for reaching out to them and getting them on board.
Moorhead took securing Prescott into his own hands.
"I called Dak, got him on the phone and he was very gracious with his time and willing to come. I'm anxious to meet him," Moorhead said. "To have four Bulldog alumni of that caliber and prestige come back for my first spring game means a lot to me and our program.
"I get starstruck that way, a big Dallas Cowboys quarterback. I thought that was pretty cool."
The rosters for the game will be released Friday morning. Moorhead said the team will be divided into a maroon team and a white team with starters and second-teamers divided throughout both rosters; he estimated 10 to 12 players will play for both teams, playing one half for one team and switching to the other at halftime.
Moorhead reacts to new kickoff rule
This week, the NCAA adopted a new rule further limiting action on kickoffs. In 2012, it pushed the line of scrimmage established upon a touchback from the 20-yard line to the 25; now, any fair catch inside the 25-yard line is treated as a touchback and the ball is placed at the 25.
It is a reaction to a budding strategy for kickers to pin the ball in between the 5-yard line and the goal line, thus forcing the opposing team to return it, in hopes that the coverage team can get to the kick returner before he reaches the 25.
"I haven't had a ton of time to digest it," Moorhead said. "I talked to (special teams coordinator Joey) Jones and some other guys on our staff to get a feel for it, but it was clearly something made for players safety and anything that makes the game safer for the players and student-athletes is a positive thing. In terms of how it's going to affect things schematically moving forward, I haven't really thought of it. Nothing detailed, a further evaluation."
Tight end Dontea Jones' receiving role on last year's team was understated to the point of nonexistent: he was primarily used as a blocking tight end, and ran some routes but ultimately did not catch a pass. Moorhead sees him in a different light.
"Dontea's a guy, you can tell a receiver kind of body type and put some weight on," Moorhead said. "He's kind of similar to the guys we had at Penn State, the (former Penn State tight end Mike) Gesicki's and other guys. Big, former X receivers who are big, can block and can be matchup problems."
Under Moorhead's tutelage, Gesecki led last year's Nittany Lions with 57 catches, taking them for 563 yards and nine touchdowns. Gesecki, now one of the highest-rated tight ends in the upcoming NFL Draft, is of similar build to Jones: Gesecki was listed at 6-foot-5, 252 pounds while MSU lists Jones at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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