Look at any of the preseason player rankings for college fantasy football and somewhere near the top is Middle Tennessee State quarterback Dwight Dasher. He’s right there among the likes of Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor, Case Keenum of Houston and last season’s Heisman Trophy winner, Alabama’s Mark Ingram.
Look up the records for some of the most productive college football players ever, and once again, you’ll find Dasher, the 5-foot-10 senior out of Folkston, Ga. He’s right there among the likes of Vince Young, the former Texas and current Tennessee Titans quarterback.
More than once in recent years he has had to fight even to be a college quarterback. Now he enters his final season as someone many consider to be one of the top players in the country.
“I guess I’m more excited for Middle Tennessee than I am for him — because he could care less,” Blue Raiders’ coach Rick Stockstill said. “… That’s not important to him, but I think it’s great recognition for our program that we’ve got a guy … when they talk about on ESPN the five most dynamic players in college football, he’s one of them.
“He doesn’t care about that. But I think it gives us some recognition to our football program nationally.”
Quite simply, the numbers make him impossible to ignore.
With 2,789 passing yards and 1,154 more rushing last season, he joined Young and two others as the only players in NCAA history to throw for more than 2,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 in the same season.
In a New Orleans Bowl victory over Southern Miss, he accounted for 81 percent of his team’s total offense. That included 201 rushing yards, the most ever by a quarterback in a bowl game, surpassing by one the 200 yards Young gained in his seminal 2006 Rose Bowl performance.
“When I broke those records, I didn’t really look at it like that,” Dasher said. “I only knew that we won the game. I don’t really look at my stats each game. I just go through the whole year, and then probably go back and look at them. … I’m just worrying about whether we’re going to win the game.”
It’s hard to imagine that on more than one occasion Dasher had to worry about whether he even would be allowed to play quarterback in college.
Undefeated and a member of three state championship teams as a quarterback in high school, he found that most schools trying to recruit him saw him as anything but a quarterback.
“Everybody recruited me as an athlete,” he said. “I wanted to go where they wanted me to play quarterback. [MTSU] gave me a chance to do that.”
Even his father saw something different for him.
“My dad wanted me to play baseball,” he said. “He loves baseball, so he wanted me to go play baseball. But I love football.”
Stockstill was unimpressed with the way Dasher competed for the job as a sophomore as well as the manner in which he behaved as Craddock’s backup for the entire 2008 season.
Now there are no more questions. He enters 2009 as one of 22 quarterbacks on the Davey O’Brien Award watch list and one of 30 on the watch list for the Johnny Unitas Award. Many even list him as a darkhorse Heisman Trophy contender.
“We’re starting up another year, so there’s a big mission to accomplish for this year and trying to do good things this year,” Dasher said. “It felt real good knowing that I did those things.”