Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach says Will Rogers would be QB if season started today

Andy Kostka
Mississippi Clarion Ledger
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Mississippi State coach Mike Leach hedged ever-so slightly, but all signs point to Will Rogers leading the Bulldogs onto the field as the starting quarterback in the season opener against Louisiana Tech.

Leach said after Wednesday’s practice that if “we were to play today, it would be Will.” When asked whether another quarterback could supplant Rogers as the starter by the time Louisiana Tech visits Davis Wade Stadium on Sept. 4, Leach said: “It’s hard to tell. Difficult to say. We’ll see.”

Much of Leach’s decision to choose Rogers as the quarterback for the coach’s air raid offense comes down to Rogers’ consistency, Leach said, edging him over the newcomers competing for the job. Rogers started six games last season, becoming the first quarterback in program history to record 30 or more completions in three straight games.

Rogers finished with 1,976 passing yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions — although four of those giveaways came during his first three games, where he came off the bench to replace K.J. Costello.

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Once Costello suffered an injury against Alabama, Rogers took over the starting job on a permanent basis. As the starter, Rogers threw 10 touchdowns compared to three interceptions, and he averaged 227.7 yards per game through the air to go with a 69.2 completion percentage.

That experience — which included 440 passing yards and three touchdowns in a narrow loss to Ole Miss — gave Rogers a leg up on his competition this summer. Leach had said during camp the two frontrunners were Rogers and South Alabama transfer Chance Lovertich.

Jack Abraham, a transfer from Southern Miss, was also expected this offseason to be in the running for the job. True freshman Sawyer Robertson, a four-star prospect from Texas, was another consideration for Leach.

But Rogers impressed in both of Mississippi State’s scrimmages this summer, separating himself from the pack through his consistency.

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“Consistency I’d say would be the biggest thing,” Leach said. “As far as just throwing the ball, they all do a pretty good job of that. And then they have various other physical attributes. But he’s a very committed guy as far as watching film, and he’s thrown with these guys more than anybody else, although it really hasn’t been as much as once you get a really established situation. But he provides more consistency.”

Rogers already ranks No. 6 in Bulldogs history in 300-yard passing games with two, and he needs one more to enter a four-way tie for the No. 3 slot. He led the SEC and ranked third in the country with 26.5 completions per game as a freshman.

Still, there’s room for Rogers to grow entering his sophomore year. Leach said he’d still like Rogers to work on “nearly everything” as the first game of the season approaches.

“The biggest thing is just keep polishing up, get his eyes in the right place, get the ball out as soon as he possibly can and good pocket presence,” Leach said. “He does a pretty good job with the huddle, but, you know, all those things. The good news is there’s not one glaring thing, but everybody can sharpen up on all the little things.”

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