Former Penn State quarterback Tommy Stevens transferring to Mississippi State
STARKVILLE — Keytaon Thompson, Jalen Mayden or Garrett Shrader? That's been the question Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead has had to answer many times this offseason.
What if the answer is none of the above?
Former Penn State quarterback Tommy Stevens announced Friday that he is transferring to Mississippi State. Stevens graduated from Penn State in December and will be immediately eligible to suit up in maroon and white in 2019.
“We look forward to Tommy joining our team and completing his final year of eligibility as a Mississippi State Bulldog,” Moorhead said. “Tommy is very talented and will be an excellent addition to our roster. He will have the opportunity to compete at quarterback this season."
Moorhead coached Stevens for two seasons when Stevens was the back-up behind Trace McSorley, the former Nittany Lion quarterback who was recently taken in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.
Stevens, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound dual-threat, played sparingly behind McSorley in State College. He's only attempted 41 passes in his college career. He's completed 24 of them (58.5 percent) for 304 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.
Stevens' athleticism might be what wins him the job. He rushed for 506 yards on 6.7 yards per carry with eighth touchdowns at Penn State. He also caught 14 passes for 62 yards and two scores. Penn State loved to get Stevens on the field as much as possible, even though McSorley had command at the quarterback position.
Had Stevens not picked Mississippi State, it was looking more likely that rising junior Thompson would get the reins to the Bulldogs' offense. While the addition of Stevens likely hurts Thompson's chances of getting them, it's still not a given that Stevens comes in and starts immediately. Stevens will have to prove in pre-season camp that he remembers Moorhead's system and can function effectively in it.
The takeaway from spring practices was that while Thompson was still struggling with accuracy issues — he's only completed 47.6 percent of his passes in two back-up years at Mississippi State — he was understanding the offense at a much higher level, which in turn led to increased production.
This effectively eliminates red-shirt freshman Mayden and true freshman Shrader from getting quality playing time in 2019. Mayden can compete for reps in the case that Stevens or Thompson both struggle, but Shrader will likely take a red-shirt season of his own.
Expect the competition to truly boil down to Stevens and Thompson.