MSU Football Notebook: Quarterback versatility, Gay injured, Zuber finding comfort

 

Ben Portnoy

 

 

STARKVILLE -- Don't expect subpackages anytime soon. 

 

Despite graduate transfer Tommy Stevens and junior Keytaon Thompson Stevens' offensive versatility, Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead does not anticipate using either as receivers anytime soon.  

 

"We have not discussed that," he said. "We're focusing on what they're going to do to win the job and when that happens, our job is to identify who our playmakers are and put them in a position to be successful." 

 

The question was posed in reference to Stevens, who spent time at quarterback, running back and receiver during his four years at Penn State. 

 

Moorhead expressed that was more of a circumstantial role given Trace McSorley -- now with the Baltimore Ravens -- was ahead of Stevens on the depth chart. 

 

That said, Moorhead did allude to wanting a few less carries for his quarterbacks in 2019 after Nick Fitzgerald received 221 touches last season. 

 

"The reason you saw so many carries was because of our struggles in certain games passing the ball," he said. "And when that occurs teams know that you have to run it and then you're going to get a stacked box at the line of scrimmage. When you're outnumbered by one or more then you've got to utilize the quarterback in the run game." 

 

Moorhead added his quarterbacks would ideally carry the ball 10-15 times per game. And though neither Stevens or Thompson are the runner Fitzgerald was, both are capable of moving the ball on the ground. 

 

From a competition standpoint, Moorhead also noted that the general timeline for choosing a starter has not changed. At SEC Media Days in July, he said he would like to have the starter pegged 10 days ahead MSU's opener against Louisiana Aug. 31 in New Orleans -- though he left the door open Wednesday for a decision to be made prior. 

 

"If it separates earlier, it separates earlier," Moorhead said. "The sooner you can name it the better for consistency and cohesion but it could go longer." 

 

 

 

Injuries, transfers, oh my. 

 

 

 

With the beginning of camp, injuries are a natural occurrence. Over the past two days a handful of players have been added to the colorful contingent of yellow and red limited and non-participant jerseys. 

 

Most notably, junior linebacker Willie Gay Jr. was a non-participant Tuesday and Wednesday. He also wore a boot on his right foot. 

 

Moorhead said Wednesday it's nothing to worry about long term and that Gay is day-to-day.  

 

Other limited participants included freshman receiver Kyziah Pruitt, senior running back Alec Murphy and senior defensive tackle Kendell Jones. 

 

On the transfer front, former Michigan running back Kareem Walker has not arrived at camp. Moorhead said Walker is continuing to deal with some administrative issues before heading to Starkville. 

 

"That's a work in progress," he said. "When it gets finalized, it gets finalized." 

 

Moorehead also said there was no update on South Alabama transfer Corliss Waitman. Waitman previously had his waiver for a sixth-year of eligibility denied by the NCAA.  

 

 

 

Zuber finding his footing 

 

 

 

While Stevens stole the offseason headlines, Kansas State transfer Isaiah Zuber figures to make a major impact on a receiving corps that lacks standout talent. 

 

Zuber showed flashes of brilliance as a receiver and kick returner for the Wildcats and should play a varied role at MSU. 

 

Moorhead explained his system is designed for receivers to understand each spot on the field, and thus lends itself to a dynamic talent like Zuber once he has a firmer grasp on the offense. 

 

"I think when you go back and look at his stuff at Kansas State he played a variety of positions -- the slot, both outside positions," he said. "So more than anything it's formations, it's language, some of the things that we do in the pass game that are route adjustment oriented." 

 

 

Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.

 

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