Steve Robertson -

Consistency and Leadership Will Be Winning Margins for Starting Job

In five days camp opens…so do you know who your quarterback is?

If not well, don’t worry. Unless one frets the fact that Mississippi State starts preseason practicing without a clear-cut and out-front leader for the most important position. And know what? Dan Mullen is not worrying.

Nor is the constituency with maybe the most important vote. That would be the guys running routes and expecting on-target tosses from whoever wins, or shares, or whatevers the 2016 quarterback job.

Mississippi State’s wide receivers are giving the quartet of varsity candidates their vote of confidence. I like all our quarterbacks,” said split end Gabe Myles.

Myles, a fourth-fall junior and third-season receiver, brings a more veteran outlook to judging the quarterback competition. What might a younger member of the receiver corps say?

“I think all of them are doing a great job,” said true sophomore Malik Dear. “Meaning it’s really going to be hard for Mullen.”

Hard, yes. But it seems for the best of reasons according to the quarterback’s position coach.

“I can tell you all four of them are extremely talented and can go win ball games in this league,” Brian Johnson said.

Alright then. Exactly how are they talented?

It’s not completely fair to put a teammate under pressure to compare. But it’s also irresistible. And remember that Myles has a little extra insight on this, because he was a high school state championship quarterback in his own right.

Besides, what’s a candidate gonna do come camp if he doesn’t agree with an elder’s evaluation? Not throw the ball his direction? Fortunately Myles gives positive reviews for the complete quartet of junior Damian Williams, sophomores Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley, and redshirt Nick Tiano.

“I really like Fitz. He proved he could really run the ball,” said Myles of spring. Not that it was a concern really, just that in limited relief turns last all the passing prowess was obvious. And college running as a quarterback is a really, really different deal than just tucking and toting as in high school.

Continuing… “Tiano is really nice, too. He’s just trying to adjust to the speed of our game now. He’s coming along running the ball as well.

“Staley, I mean just a big guy, he can make throws just effortlessly, he has a cannon of an arm. And of course D-Will knows the offense like the back of his hand. It’s just a different presence when he’s out on the field, he knows how to take command and lead our team.”

Yes, lead. This is an absolutely key factor that can only be seen in-action and not just awarded. Johnson, an all-star quarterback at Utah for Dan Mullen after all and he won his way to the top with leadership. Oh, and consistency, which is his other key qualifier in who wins this job.

“Yeah, I think that’s huge,” Johnson said. “Once you get to this point all four are extremely talented and do certain things very, very well. But the consistency, of being the same guy every day in your performance, in your attitude, your leadership, so just being consistent every day in leading your team.”

For two months the quarterbacks have only needed to show leadership in weightroom workouts, and the informal afternoon drills. That matters, Mullen said.

“Building chemistry is so crucial to success in the fall. They have to establish themselves as a leader.”

But beginning next week, quarterbacks must demonstrate leadership of an entire team. That and execute in practices and make plays in scrimmages, of course. Mullen has declared it an even race, and if August follows along April trends the winner won’t be settled until…opening weekend? Game day? “I’d hate to be in the situation he’ll (Mullen) be in to choose a starting quarterback,” said Dear.

Myles seconds that notion. “I’m happy I don’t have to make that decision!”

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