STARKVILLE • Freshman Will Rogers has earned the backup quarterback spot.
With less than two weeks until Mississippi State opens the season at defending national champion LSU, head coach Mike Leach said transfer quarterback KJ Costello will likely serve as the starter while Rogers is the backup.
Garrett Shrader, who started four games last year, was pushed down to No. 3 on the depth chart and moved to slot receiver during fall camp.
“Will is a good student of the game,” Leach said after Saturday’s scrimmage. “I think he’s kind of a self-corrector. He can correct himself between plays, not just between practices. … He understands what we’re trying to accomplish. He’s really gotten his arms around that.”
Rogers, who started three seasons at Brandon High School, was ranked a three-star recruit by 247sports and was a Top 20 player in the state of Mississippi.
He immediately made a big impact in the high school scene, passing for 9,093 yards and 79 touchdowns in his three seasons. That led to Leach and his coaching staff recruiting Rogers heavily while they were still at Washington State.
When asked on Saturday how much it helped Rogers in the quarterback competition since Leach was recruiting him at Washington State, Leach said he doesn’t know if that helped him at all.
He’s earned the backup role since being on campus.
“We liked him on film and talked to him on the phone, but we hadn’t coached him,” Leach said of recruiting Rogers. “The bigger thing has been his dedication with all the distractions as he came through the door in January and was really ready to work.”
As the Bulldogs’ backup, it’s possible Rogers does not see much time on the field.
Leach’s backup quarterbacks do not usually play a big role in his offense. In 2019, WSU starter Anthony Gordon passed the ball 689 times for 5,579 yards and 48 touchdowns. His backup, Gage Gubrub, passed the ball 10 times for 89 yards and one touchdown.
In 2018, Gardner Minshew passed the ball 662 times for 4,779 yards and 38 touchdowns. His backup, Trey Tinsley, passed the ball nine times for 63 yards and one touchdown.
Leach was head coach at Washington State for eight seasons from 2012-19, and his backup quarterback had 42 or fewer pass attempts in four of those eight seasons.