STARKVILLE • New Mississippi State coach Mike Leach is as aware as anybody that his Bulldogs will have five scholarship quarterbacks on its roster when Stanford graduate transfer K.J. Costello arrives in June.
Although keeping five quarterbacks would give MSU a signal caller in every class, the likelihood that some of them test the transfer portal is a high probability.
“We hope they stay, but the reality is that guys want to get on the field and that’s understandable,” Leach said last week. “There’s no way we’re going to play five quarterbacks. There is no way to rep five quarterbacks. This isn’t P.E., so we’re going to have to make some choices.
“They’ll be tough choices because these are people that want to do good things and some of them will be great quarterbacks down the road if they develop. But in the end, we’re going to have to be pretty disciplined in settling on two guys.”
MSU will go through spring practice with junior Keytaon Thompson, rising sophomores Garrett Shrader and Jalen Mayden and true freshman Will Rogers on the roster.
Shrader started four games as a true freshman this past season while Thompson redshirted. Thompson tested the transfer portal after graduate transfer Tommy Stevens won the starting job in fall camp but ultimately returned and played a handful of snaps as a wide receiver in the Egg Bowl.
Mayden did not see any action in 2019 and Rogers enrolled in January after graduating high school early.
“I think it’ll be a very competitive position, and by spring, I hope they all can throw strikes,” Leach said. “If they can, we’re going to sort out the best one from there. In the end, it’s the guy that moves the offense the best.”
No matter which quarterback emerges in the spring, Leach does not intend on naming a starter anytime soon.
“I don’t plan to come out of spring with a starter because I think you always compete for your position,” Leach said. “So I do not plan to do that. I plan to figure out where everyone is at and first teach them the offense.”
In the event that all of the signal callers stick around Starkville for the fall, Leach will not attempt to get all of them equal snaps during practices. He will narrow his focus to the ones that emerge at the top of the depth chart.
“If you give five guys even reps, you’ll successfully make five people extremely average,” Leach said. “I’d love to do it, but first of all there’s the 20-hour (NCAA practice) rule. Then, I don’t have five full sets of productive offensive linemen, or five full sets of receivers or five full sets of running backs. So then the product diminishes there and you’re working on something, but you’re not really working on execution.”
MSU experienced a mass exodus of quarterbacks during the 2016 season. Elijah Staley transferred during fall camp that year while Damian Williams and Nick Tiano both left at the end of the season in which Nick Fitzgerald won the starting job.