Mississippi State QB battle to be settled soon, but who wins it?
Mississippi State’s quarterback battle continues between graduate transfer Tommy Stevens and sophomore Keytaon Thompson.
Coach Joe Moorhead said a decision could come sooner rather than later. Following the scrimmage Saturday, Moorhead praised the group and noted a decision could be imminent.
“We kind of had an idea heading in to the scrimmage on where we were. Based on all the information that was available, statistics, completion percentage and touchdowns, you kind of have your gut feel,” Moorhead said.
The season-opener against Louisiana is less than 2 weeks away.
“I have an idea and might let y’all (the media) know this week,” Moorhead said with a chuckle.
Stevens (pictured above) and Thompson are vying for a position held by Nick Fitzgerald, who graduated after leading the Bulldogs in rushing and passing yards. Replacing Fitz’s production won’t be easy, but both quarterbacks seem up to the task.
The case for Stevens
For those who think Stevens only will be a dropback passer, think again. The Penn State graduate transfer ranks No. 8 on Penn State’s career rushing QB list with 388 yards and is tied at No. 6 on the single-game QB rushing list with 117 yards against Maryland. The most impressive stat might be that he’s 1 of only 2 QB’s in PSU history with 100-plus rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns in a game.
Stevens was a career backup in Happy Valley to Trace McSorley and looked to be a backup this season as well to sophomore Sean Clifford. Following the Blue and White game this past April, Stevens wanted more assurance he’d be QB1 heading into fall camp. He didn’t receive the vote of confidence from head coach James Franklin he felt he needed and headed for Starkville, where he reunited with his former OC.
The case for Thompson
As for Keytaon Thompson, he spent 2 seasons behind Nick Fitzgerald, playing in 9 games last fall. He has stayed the course when it might have been easier to transfer. He played admirably in the 2017 Egg Bowl after Fitzgerald suffered an injury.
Known for his feet, he showed signs of progress under the tutelage of Joe Moorhead passing the ball last season and throughout the offseason. While his playing time has been sparse, he has thrown 8 TD passes on just 105 career attempts. His best stat, he’s averaging 11.7 yards per pass completion.
His passing ability, though improved, remains the reason the competition is open. We all know what Thompson can do on the ground: He has rushed for 662 yards — and 10 touchdowns — in his career.
My verdict: Tommy Stevens
The Bulldogs open against Louisiana in New Orleans in less than 2 weeks. I fully expect Stevens to be leading the Bulldogs under center.
While the Dawgs should roll in the Superdome, the first 4 games should be conducive to winning and give Thompson plenty of opportunities to turn some heads.
Should Moorhead have veteran receivers like Stephen Guidry and Osirus Mitchell or possibly some younger receivers like Devonta Jason or Austin Williams step up, Stevens has the opportunity to shine early and cement his place as the starter moving forward.