For 2nd year Mississippi State head football Joe Moorehead, this season could easily be called his rebuilding season. In this previous NFL Draft, the Bulldogs had one of their most successful outings in recent memory with a record number of players being drafted in early rounds. Not only is Moorehead replacing incredible defensive talent, but there has been a void left at the quarterback position as well. Gone is record setter Nick Fitzgerald. In his place are two young men vying for the right to become lead dog, Jr Keytaon Thompson and former Penn State grad transfer Tommy Stevens.
Keytaon Thompson was thrust into the spotlight early in his career as Bulldog. He came in as relief for Nick Fitzgerald after he suffered a horrific season ending injury against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. In his first game as a starter, he led his team to an improbable victory over Louisville in the TaxSlayer Bowl. He also out performed then Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Thompson was 11-20 for 127 yards passing. He also rushed for 147 yards and 3 TDs. This past season, he started for suspended Nick Fitzgerald in the opening game against Stephen F Austin. He would only see limited action from then on in his first year under Joe Moorhead. In his career, the 6’4 225lb Jr from New Orleans is 50/105 for 846 yards passing and 8 TDs to 3 interceptions. Keytaon has also rushed for 692 yards and 10 TDs.
Tommy Stevens, a former 3 -star from Indiana, signed with Penn State originally out of high school. However, he would eventually concede the starting duties to eventual legend Trace McSorely. Two of those seasons were spent under the guide of Joe Moorhead before the coach took the head coaching position at Mississippi State. During his time with the Nittany Lions, Stevens was 24/41 for 304 yards passing and 4 TDs to 1 interception. Tommy added 506 yards rushing and 8 TDs. What he lacks in game experience, he makes up in time spent under Moorehead’s system. His heart belonged to Penn State, but he ran into injury and a noncommittal coach. So, he decided to take a chance elsewhere. That “elsewhere” was in Starkville, Mississippi.
Both quarterbacks have time invested in Moorhead’s system, just different versions. It appears neither has a distinct “leg-up” over the other. However, what is surprising is that the two of them are using their experiences to teach/mentor each other and the younger quarterbacks. “With him being in Moorhead’s offense with the time he was there and my time here, we both have little tips for each other on certain plays. We just work together to try to make the team as best as possible,” Keytaon Thompson said. In a “me-first” society we live in, that goes against the norm. However, these young men realize that team is bigger than the individual. “I think that having that kind of relationship with not only him (Keytaon) but the other quarterbacks in the room, obviously there is only going to be one starting quarterback, but if all of us can work together and one way or another help the guy that is the starter, that’s the most important thing,” Stevens said. Moorhead couldn’t ask for a more positive situation. This will definitely help the growing chemistry on the team; especially when entering into the gantlet that is the SEC schedule. Experience will come into play, but this kind of unselfishness/maturity will allow the Bulldogs to survive.
So, who will start at quarterback against Louisiana in the opening game? That’s a question that Joe Moorehead wants to have answered at the end of the final preseason scrimmage on August 21st. More than likely, it will come down to who is the more dominant passer. Both are gifted running the ball. Whoever takes the helm, they will have the services of one of the most underrated running backs in the conference, if not the country in Kylin Hill (734 yards, 4 TDs). On the other side of that, they will have the difficult task of brining life to one of the worst passing offenses in the country and finding a “big play” wide receiver. While the veteran group of Stephen Guidry, Deddrick Thomas, and Osirus Mitchell are experienced, they combined for only 1,123 yards and 9 TDs. The task at hand is a challenging one, but there is no question that the right candidate will emerge as the victor. There’s one thing for certain though, based on my above statements, both players will have each other’s backs.
I am a 2003 graduate from the University of Alabama with a degree in Exercise Science. While at the Capstone, I served as a student assistant with the head strength and conditioning coach of the Crimson Tide football team. I have competed in both powerlifting and bodybuilding for several years. In addition, I have served athletes and people through the arena of personal training. Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I am a passionate fan of Alabama, but do not make other fan bases miserable because of it. College football has my heart first, but I cover all areas of sports. Follow me on Twitter: @justinriley7!