With the graduation of 2+ year starting quarterback Kevin Fant and his backup Kyle York limited to practicing the running aspects of the new offense due to off-season shoulder surgery, the two youngsters, sophomores Omarr Conner and Aries Nelson, are getting most of the reps during the spring.
Despite the fact that Omarr, Mississippi's Mr. Football his senior season of high school, seems to have moved slightly ahead of Aries on the depth chart, MSU quarterback coach/offensive coordinator Woody McCorvey is not ready to come out and say who is ahead on the depth chart.
"Aries (Nelson) and Omarr (Conner) are getting most of the work and are basically co-number 1's," said McCorvey. "We try to split their time up evenly in practice so that when we watch tape and get into scrimmage situations we can get a fair assessment of what each one of them can do."
So far, McCorvey has seen some positives things from both youngsters.
"Aries is probably a little better in the drop-back aspect of what we are doing," said McCorvey, in his first year at MSU. "Omarr is probably ahead in terms of the passing game where we are sprinting out and doing play-action and rolling out."
Although last year's backup, junior Kyle York, can't throw in practice due to his off-season surgery, McCorvey is somewhat pleased that he is able to receive some reps via the running game aspect of practice and also receive some mental reps in the passing game.
"It's sad that Kyle is not able to get a lot of reps other than just in the running game," said McCorvey. "But, by him being out there, he is getting a really good understanding of what we are trying to do with the offense. Even though he is not in there getting physical reps, he is getting a lot of mental reps in terms of the passing game."
Two other youngsters, although not receiving many reps in the two spring scrimmages, have shown some good things during the regular practices, according to McCorvey.
"(Junior) Brett Morgan has some ability and has done a good job in the running game, although he has not had a lot of reps in the passing game," said McCorvey. "I have been pleased with him when we are with the receivers doing a lot of work man to man against the defensive backs. He has shown that he has some ability to throw the ball and throw the timing routes that we ask the guys to do.
"(Redshirt freshman walk-on) Brett Wilcutt, during the times that he has played, has shown that he can manage certain aspects of the offense. Like Brett (Morgan), he hasn't gotten a lot of reps, so we can't really form a fair assessment of him."
Senior Joe Judge is also competing for playing time at quarterback, although most of his time during the spring has been with the holders for the kickers, where he is projected to be the starter this coming season.
With their most experienced quarterback, Kyle York, basically on the sidelines this spring, the MSU coaching staff have had to put the quarterback position in the hands of two youngsters, Conner and Nelson. Learning a system as complicated as the West Coast offense would be tough even for a veteran quarterback like York, but it becomes even tougher when you have two sophomores that have either no or very little experience as a college quarterback. However, after both had a rough first scrimmage, Omarr and Aries seem to show a better grasp of the offense the second time around. Omarr went from having a 6-for-15 for 77 yards and 1 interception first scrimmage to a 8-for-14 for 175 yards and 3 TDs second scrimmage. Aries improved from 8-for-23, 40 yards and 3 interceptions to 6-for-8 and 47 yards during the two scrimmages. While they both have a long way to go before they have a solid grasp of the system, there is no doubt that they are learning and improving.
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing email@example.com.