By JOEL COLEMAN
With four quarterbacks battling for the starting job, there was only one way to settle who would get first-team reps as Mississippi State began its first football practice on Tuesday.
“I won rock, paper, scissors,” Nick Fitzgerald said.
With that, Fitzgerald took the initial snap of 2016 and the fight to fill former quarterback Dak Prescott’s big shoes was underway.
Fitzgerald was followed, in order, by Elijah Staley, Nick Tiano and Damian Williams. Little, if anything, can be read into that. Head coach Dan Mullen stated on Monday each quarterback will get 25 percent of the reps in camp until someone pulls away.
“Each quarterback is going to get reps with the ones, twos and threes,” Mullen said. “Part of it is going to be by day. Depending on how you perform the previous day, you might get more reps with a certain group, but I also want to see who can move each group. If you can only execute with the ones,that is a positive, but why? Is that because you are with the ones and the other players around you are executing, or are you making it happen? That’s the benefit of seeing everyone go with each different group out there on the field.”
The quarterback race will become clearer in the weeks to come. For now, Tuesday was mostly about the excitement of returning to the field.
“It has been a long, long summer,” wide receiver Keith Mixon said. “It felt great to get my feet back wet.”
MSU practiced for a little over two hours. Even with the heat bearing down on the Bulldogs, Mullen said it was an enjoyable day.
“I know our guys love playing football and our coaches love coaching football so I think everybody had fun,” Mullen said. “It’s fun to go out and get to do football. You have such limited opportunities.
“We have 28 practices just crammed in here to quickly get ready to go play.”
Running back Dontavian Lee was the only MSU player not cleared to practice. He wore a boot on his foot. Will Coleman, set to play the viper position this year, joined Lee on the sidelines after tightening up.
Tight end Dontea Jones also did not practice and isn’t listed on MSU’s 105-man camp roster due to injury. By not putting Jones on the roster, it allowed Mullen flexibility to add another player in camp.
“(Jones) is in camp as a rehabber,” Mullen said. “He’s still rehabbing with all our guys. We’d hope he’d be back once school starts up.”
The Bulldogs will return to the practice fields on Wednesday. They’ll practice in full pads for the first time on Saturday, the same day the team begins its annual training at the location dubbed ’The Farm’ near MSU’s veterinary school.
In the days to come, Mullen is hoping to see his players, young and old, continuing to blossom.
“Everybody is at such different levels with where they are,” Mullen said. “We need guys to improve on where they are.
“Effort should never change, but where you are as a football player, I want to see guys where they should be and continuing to improve daily.”