Why Mike Leach said Mississippi State football quarterback competition is 'wide open'

Tyler Horka
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

STARKVILLE – If you thought Will Rogers was Mississippi State's surefire starter at quarterback going into the 2021 season, think again. Mike Leach said that's simply not the case. 

"I think the quarterback position is wide open," Leach said after MSU's spring game last weekend. 

Rogers played in nine games with six starts as a true freshman. He rewrote some of Mississippi State's single-game records thanks to Leach's pass-happy offense. 

Rogers is the first quarterback in school history to register three straight games of 30-plus completions. He set a school record with 45 straight completions against Ole Miss.

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He's the first quarterback in school history with multiple 300-yard passing games as a freshman. He owns the MSU freshman record for total yards in a game with 466 against Ole Miss. 

And yet, his job is up for grabs. 

Southern Miss transfer Jack Abraham is gunning for it. Four-star freshman Sawyer Robertson of Lubbock, Texas, will be after it when he arrives this summer,  too. Those are the two quarterbacks who pose the biggest threat to Rogers, but they're not the only ones. 

Early enrollee freshman Daniel Greek of Argyle, Texas, South Alabama transfer Chance Lovertich and Sam Houston State transfer Jack Kristofek also earned spring game snaps along with Rogers and Abraham. 

Rogers attempted 41 passes. Abraham attempted 34. No other quarterback reached double digits. It's clear who the top two candidates are in the spring, but it's not so clear whether this is a No. 1 Rogers and No. 2 Abraham situation or more of a 1A and 1B scenario. 

And when Robertson, the No. 10 pro-style quarterback recruit in his class according to 247Sports, is thrown into the fold, where do the rankings stand then?

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There has been a ton of quarterback turnover at Mississippi State the last two seasons. Graduate transfers Tommy Stevens and K.J. Costello didn't work out, opening the door for Garrett Shrader to start in 2019 and Rogers last year. But it's been awhile since MSU had a true three-way competition heading into a season. 

Going into 2019, Stevens won the job over Keytaon Thompson, who is now at Virginia. Shrader was an afterthought at the time. Going into 2020, the starting slot clearly belonged to Costello. Rogers was just along for the ride, learning as he went. 

Going into 2021, it's an open three-man race between Rogers, Abraham and Robertson. 

Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers (2) throws a pass against Auburn during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Starkville, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Leach said Robertson has more experience in his air raid offense than most first-year quarterbacks typically do because it's very similar to what he operated in at Lubbock Coronado High School. Rogers ran the same system at Brandon High School, too, but Robertson is a much more sought-after recruit than Rogers was when he got to MSU. 

"Yeah, I do think he's got a chance," Leach said of Robertson. "We'll see how everybody progresses through the offseason between now and then. So we're excited about that." 

Ultimately, Leach isn't going to play favorites. It doesn't matter that Leach's roots run deep in Lubbock and that Robertson looked up to him ever since he put Texas Tech on the map during his decade-long tenure there.

It doesn't matter that Rogers was recruited to Washington State by Leach while he was on the backside of his eight-year stint there. It doesn't matter Abraham has been a Magnolia State staple since his time at Oxford High School, one year as Northwest Mississippi Community College's starter in 2017 and three years at Southern Miss. 

Leach throws all that out the window and boils the quarterback competition down to a simple standard. 

"Whoever who can move the ball downfield the best is going to be the quarterback here," Leach said. 

Contact Tyler Horka at thorka@gannett.com. Follow @tbhorka on Twitter. To read more of Tyler's work, subscribe to the Clarion Ledger today!