The Roles of Staley and Fitzgerald


Nov 17, 2012; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs helmet during the game between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Arkansas Razorbacks at Davis Wade Stadium. Mississippi State Bulldogs defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks 45-14. Mandatory Credit: Spruce DerdenUSA TODAY Sports

National Signing Day has come and gone. We got a few nice surprises in Cory Thomas and Grant Harris. The ones that I am the most curious about, though, are the two signees who play the most important position on the field, Elijah Staley and Nick Fitzgerald.

Now that Tyler Russell has graduated, Mississippi State has four quarterbacks on the roster that all have a similar skill set. They are dual threat quarterbacks that can hurt you as much with their feet, or possibly more, as much as they can with their arm. I don’t see any reason to ever run a two quarterback system with quarterbacks of similar talent. I am curious as to why we brought two quarterbacks into the fold.

If things play out the way most anticipate, Dak Prescott will finish out his senior year in 2015, and a three way quarterback competition will ensue between Senior Damian Williams, Junior/Redshirt Sophomore Elijah Staley, and Junior/Redshirt Sophomore Nick Fitz. It’s always possible that Dak Prescott could have a mind blowing year and leave for the NFL draft, but let’s just assume that he will be here for the 2015 season. I also think, despite his valiant performance late in the season, Damian Williams will get surpassed by one of the two quarterbacks we just brought in. There is usually one of two scenarios that plays out when you sign two quarterbacks.

Scenario #1

One guy will end up getting the quarterback job. If they were vastly different quarterbacks, I might be tempted to believe that Mullen could find a way to incorporate them both. An option available to the player who doesn’t get the job would be to switch positions. Both players are big, strong athletes that can do other things besides throw the ball. That is one of the things that Mullen looks for in his players. It wouldn’t be surprising to see either of them line up at wide receiver, tight end or some other skill position. They have the speed and athleticism to be able to make the switch.  Fitzgerald would be the likely candidate to do so, primarily because he didn’t play quarterback until this year. Robbie Faulk of Rivals informed me on Twitter a few months ago that he had played wide receiver until this year.

Scenario #2

One guy gets the job and the other transfers. They were both recruited as quarterbacks, so I assume the coaches think highly of both of them at that position. If that is the only position they want to play, it wouldn’t be the first time a team with two quarterbacks lost one by transfer.

So How Does This Play Out?

Way too early to say, obviously. I’m sure both players were asking the coaches about what their role on the team would be, and they were well aware that State planned to sign two quarterbacks. They also seem to like each other if you go by their interaction on Twitter. If you go by ratings alone, many would think Staley will get the most playing time. He’s a 3 star recruit across the board, and is slightly higher ranked than Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is a 2 star recruit at Rivals and Scout, but a 3 star according to 247. On the flip side, Fitzgerald graduated from high school a semester early solely with the intent on practicing with the Bulldogs during Bowl practice and the upcoming Spring practices. Since he has had such limited action, his rating could be more of a reflection of his limited experience.

It will also be interesting to see if Mullen keeps the redshirt on both players. Does he burn one with the intention on getting one of them some much needed game experience in case we get to an emergency situation and one has to play, similar to what happened with Williams in 2013? It’s very possible.

The one good thing about this is that Mississippi State fans aren’t accustomed to having multiple viable options at quarterback. That is arguably the biggest improvement that Mullen has made to the program since his arrival. Quarterback play had always been less than stellar to say the least until he showed up. It’s good to see the coaching staff is bringing in guys at that position that they believe will contribute.