Joe Moorhead

Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead speaks during the Southeastern Conference Media Days Wednesday in Hoover, Alabama.

Mississippi State missed out on Clemson’s Kelly Bryant but was able to land former Penn State signal caller Tommy Stevens.

Stevens was in line to be the Nittany Lions’ starting quarterback this fall but abruptly announced his departure from Penn State following spring practices.

Bryant ultimately transferred to Missouri.

“It wasn’t necessarily that we were looking for a quarterback as much as we were looking for a way to upgrade our talent level and upgrade our roster,” said MSU coach Joe Moorhead. “We were involved with (Bryant) prior to Tommy and we ended up not getting him, he went somewhere else. Any position where we think we have a chance to make our team better, we explore those options.”

Stevens is not guaranteed the starting job in Starkville either. He will enter fall camp in a highly contested battle with Keytaon Thompson, a junior who is 2-0 as a starter for the Bulldogs.

Freshmen Jalen Mayden and Garrett Shrader will also continue to compete for reps at the position, but Stevens and Thompson are the front runners to fill the shoes of three-year starter Nick Fitzgerald.

“Everyone is involved in the competition just like at every other position but conventional wisdom dictates that a guy who is in his fifth year and a guy who is in his third year and has played in some games are going to be the primary contenders,” Moorhead said.

Mississippi State is looking for a new quarterback after the departure of three-year starter Nick Fitzgerald. The Bulldogs were 8-5 last season, but struggled at times on offense, especially through the air.

Thompson was Fitzgerald’s backup last year, throwing for 458 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. The 6-foot-5 Stevens backed up star Trace McSorley at Penn State. Moorhead coached Stevens early in his Penn State career when he was the school’s offensive coordinator.

“I think Tommy is a kid with a lot of physical tools,” Moorhead said. “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.

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