What Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach said about QBs, Bulldogs after Day 1 of practice

Nick Suss
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

STARKVILLE — Mississippi State football opened its 2021 preseason practices Friday and all eyes were on sophomore quarterback Will Rogers. Mostly because the Mississippi State quarterback competition didn't look much like a competition at all.

Rogers received almost all of the first-team reps Friday, continuing to build chemistry with a revamped receiver group that's significantly deeper than the one he threw to last fall. Rogers made a few good throws and a few bad decisions, as should be expected on the first day of practice, but coach Mike Leach was more impressed with the growth he's seen from the sophomore.

"I think leadership he's come a long, long ways as far as elevating the play of others," Leach said. "He's more consistent than he obviously was starting as a true freshman without a spring. There's plenty of progress to make."

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Rogers has had time to make that progress this offseason. Rogers didn't have a spring in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions and was thrust into a starting role because of an injury, not because he was necessarily deemed ready.

This year, Rogers had a full spring. And a more regular summer. And he's heading into fall as the man to beat.

It's important to note, however, that Rogers does have some competition. South Alabama transfer Chance Lovertich took all the second-team reps behind Rogers. 

Leach summed up Lovertich's day by saying he looked shaky in individual drills, looked strong in 7-on-7 drills despite making a few turnover-worthy plays and showed his best stuff during team drills, although he was still a little inconsistent.

It didn't appear as if Lovertich challenged Rogers much for the starting job. Southern Miss transfer Jack Abraham didn't have the opportunity, not practicing after warmups for undisclosed reasons. Freshmen Sawyer Robertson and Daniel Greek and Sam Houston transfer Jack Kristofek were mostly resigned to drills with the third- and fourth-teams.

Perhaps the bigger takeaway had less to do with the quarterbacks and more to do with the players they were throwing to. Mississippi State's receiving corps had a depth it was missing last season. Returning contributors like Jaden Walley, Austin Williams and Malik Heath were flanked by transfers Makai Polk and Jamire Calvin, freshmen like Kosciusko's Antonio Harmon and even walk-ons like Tupelo's Trip Wilson, who made a couple of impressive plays during 7-on-7 drills.

"It helps," Leach said. "It pushes guys and it also gives us more resources so we don't get too thin. You always battle that. I think it's an improved group. We've got a long ways to go though."

Overall, Leach was pleased with the first day of practice. He said there was some anticipated sloppiness and rustiness, but he was impressed by the way his players competed. 

Leach said he isn't going to rush to make too many depth chart decisions this early. Partially because he wants to see how competition will separate players. But more because he needs to get used to seeing what his players became over the summer.

"The thing is these guys change," Leach said. "They don't always stay the same. The good news is they usually improve. You've got to keep peeking in on them and see what they're doing and try to distribute the reps. The good news is it's a result of improvement. The bad news is you're constantly trying to evaluate and make the best decisions you can."

Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or nsuss@gannett.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.