When Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead appeared at the 2019 SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama the focus from most was on the arrival of Penn State graduate transfer Tommy Stevens and the quarterback battle that would ensue from it.
“Obviously I've been exposed to Tommy and coached him for two years at Penn State,” said Moorhead. “I think he or any quarterback that we coach or bring into our system, we want the quarterback to be able to beat you with his brain, his arm and his legs.
“And I think Tommy is a kid with a lot of physical tools. Strong arm. He can really run. He's accustomed to the system so he's going to understand it for the most part coming in. And, you know, I think he brings a lot of talent to the position, and I think the competition is going to be an exciting one. It's going to make the position better, it's going to make our offense better, and it's going to make our team better.”
Among those competing for the job with Stevens is junior Keytaon Thompson. He filled in for last year’s starting QB Nick Fitzgerald, completing 18-of-39 passes for 458 yards and six touchdowns while rushing 226 yards on 24 carries.
Moorhead said “ideally” he’d prefer to name a starter as soon as possible.
“There’s a Wednesday where there’s a scripted [type] of scrimmage that we have,” said Moorhead in a private interview session with members of the Mississippi media that were present. “It’s 10 days out from the first game. We’d like to [have someone named] at the end of that scrimmage, but I’m not going to paint myself in that corner.”
Mississippi State opens up the 2019 season on the road at LA-Lafayette on August 31. Kickoff is slated for 11 a.m.
Local players mentioned
The 2019 signing class for the Dawgs ranked 24th nationally and 11th in the SEC. Two Top 100 recruits, five-star OT Charles Cross - ranked 27th nationally overall - and four-star DT Nathan Pickering - ranked 73rd nationally overall - contributed to Mississippi State’s Top 25 finish. Both reign from the Sports601’s coverage area. Cross played high school football at Laurel High School and Pickering at Seminary.
Here is what Moorhead had to say about both players and the role they’ll take in the upcoming season.
Regarding Charles Cross: “He has a world of potential. We’ll have to put some weight on him and that was something we knew [with him coming in]. He does some of things that you really can’t teach for a guy that size. To move his feet the way he does and as athletic as he is, Charles will have a heck of a career at Mississippi State if he stays on track. He has a chance to play at the next level as well.”
Regarding Nathan Pickering: “He’s a great kid. He came here when he could have gone anywhere in the county, but he chose to stay home. I think he’s at the place Fabian Lovett was last year, coming in and getting used to the speed of the game and what it takes to prepare in an SEC college environment. I think Nathan has that potential as well.”