Some Mississippi State fans may not realize how good they have had it the last several seasons. While Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald may have given some fans reason to complain after an average performance or two, it’s rare for an SEC program to have consecutive, record-breaking quarterbacks filter through the program. While Fitzgerald may have been tasked with replacing the best player in program history, Fitzgerald’s successor will have to do a ton just to match the accomplishments of the QB that came before him.
Many assume the next man up in Starkville will be Keytaon Thompson based on the impressive performances he has had on the field in the limited opportunities he’s had with the Bulldogs. Most-known for his impressive performance in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl, where he helped Mississippi State beat a Louisville team led by Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, Thompson is currently the leader in the clubhouse, according to Joe Moorhead.
However, just because Thompson enters the spring as the logical choice, that doesn’t mean the job can’t be won by another quarterback on the roster.
“I said in our team meeting today that depth charts are written in pencil, not pen for a reason,” Moorhead said on Tuesday. “Certainly, KT [Keytaon Thompson] is the incumbent. He is the returner with the most experience and has played in games so he is in the catbird seat. But, Jalen [Mayden] and Garrett [Shrader] are going to get those opportunities to compete and we will go through 15 practices and see where we are. After Day 1, I was pleased with their retention and execution today.”
While Thompson certainly has an edge in experience and on-field production, Mayden was an Elite 11 finalist in 2018 and Mississippi State had to hold off some big-time programs in order to sign the Texas native. As for Shrader, the North Carolina native has long been Moorhead’s top choice at quarterback in the 2019 recruiting cycle, going back to the coach’s time at Penn State.
Coming off the inconsistent showings on offense that plagued MSU last season, don’t be surprised to see Moorhead go with the quarterback that best fits his offense in 2019. If the program is going to remain relevant in the SEC West, the offense needs to take a big step forward in 2019 and can’t be limited by a quarterback that doesn’t fit what Moorhead wants from the position. Another season of up and down offensive results could be enough to turn away even some of the most die-hard Hail State fans.