Tommy Stevens is quite comfortable in Starkville with Joe Moorhead. The Penn State transfer is in his third year playing for the coach.
“Really, I guess that makes me the most experienced person here in this offense,” said Stevens, who is battling last year’s backup, Keytaon Thompson, for the starting nod. “It helps me be a coach of some point and to be able to help those guys learn and give them examples of some of the things we did at Penn State. Things like that and any way I can help, I think the guys see that.”
Thompson isn’t letting the pressure get to him.
As recently as MSU’s spring football game in April, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound junior signal caller seemed to have a firm grasp on the starting quarterback job.
Now, he’ll have to beat out graduate transfer Stevens in fall camp if he wants to line up under center in MSU’s season opener against Louisiana on Aug. 31.
And Thompson doesn’t plan on backing down.
“There’s always competition,” Thompson told reporters Monday. “You always want to go out there and get better every day, regardless of if you’re first, second or third string.”
Stevens announced his intention to transfer to MSU from Penn State in May, a move Thompson and the rest of the quarterback room knew was possible.
“Our coaches let us know ahead of time he may or may not be coming in,” Thompson said.
Reading between the lines, all signs point to Stevens as the frontrunner to start Week One considering Stevens only has one year of eligibility remaining and spent two years learning Moorhead’s system when Moorhead was an offensive coordinator at Penn State.
But publicly, Moorhead says the quarterback competition is wide open.
Fall camp opened a week ago, and Stevens and Thompson rotated reps between the first and second team in different drills. The timeframe for either to make a significant impression on the coaching staff is narrow, as Moorhead has said he’d like to name a starter at least 10 days before MSU’s opener.
Nonetheless, Thompson isn’t putting any extra pressure on himself. For now, Thompson said he’s only focused on self-improvement and how far he’s come along in Moorhead’s offense since last fall.
“It’s totally different for me. I feel much more confident with the offense,” Thompson said. “With the installs, I’ve seen them before and I know most of them. I’m much more comfortable and it’s a lot better feeling.”
MSU’s leading receiver from a season ago, Stephen Guidry, said he’s noticed a tremendous difference in Thompson from 2018 to 2019.
“He’s gotten way better,” Guidry said, noting both Thompson’s throwing and rushing mechanics have improved. “It’s his time and he’s got a lot going for him.”