By JOEL COLEMAN
The four-man race to become Mississippi State’s starting quarterback became clearer on Friday as sophomore signal caller Elijah Staley announced he is transferring.
Staley had been in the midst of a preseason quarterback competition along with junior Damian Williams, fellow sophomore Nick Fitzgerald and redshirt freshman Nick Tiano.
“After much thought, I have been granted my release and will be transferring from Mississippi State,” Staley posted to Twitter. “I would like to thank the Bulldog fans, community and coaching staff for this opportunity the past two years. I look forward to continuing my football career at another school and I am excited about what is in store for the future! Thanks for all your support and Hail State.”
MSU head coach Dan Mullen confirmed Staley’s intentions in a school release.
“We would like to thank Elijah for his contributions to our football team,” Mullen said. “During his time here, he has always been a hard worker and a great teammate. We wish him nothing but the best as he pursues another opportunity.”
Staley played in two games for MSU last season. He rushed for 18 yards on three carries and completed three of his five pass attempts for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Staley did not participate in MSU’s first scrimmage of the preseason on Thursday night.
By being granted his release from State, Staley will be free to join any other football program, including those at other Southeastern Conference institutions. NCAA rules do require transferring players to sit out for a year, however.
“I appreciate how (Staley) handled everything,” Mullen said. “I don’t take that stuff very lightly. We had a very mature conversation about the future and where we’re at and where he’s at and what he feels is best. We supported him in that decision.”
Staley’s transfer doesn’t come as a surprise. Mullen stated prior to training camp that he wouldn’t be shocked if one of his quarterbacks that didn’t earn the starting job left MSU.
“I think (quarterback) is one of those positions where it’s difficult,” Mullen said on Aug. 1. “It’s difficult because there is only one quarterback. If you’re not starting at receiver, that means you play 30 plays a game instead of 40 plays a game. There’s really not that big of a difference. There’s a lot of positions where the starter, when we’re in the locker room getting dressed, they put his picture on the jumbotron. That’s about the difference in the first or second string guys in a lot of positions. The quarterback is a unique position though.”
Mullen also stated then, that should one of MSU’s quarterbacks choose to transfer, he would back that decision.
“Guys want to play,” Mullen said. “It’s a very different understanding at the quarterback position than other positions. It wouldn’t surprise me if (a transfer) happened and, to be honest with you, I’d be supportive of helping those guys any way that I could because they just want to be in a position to go and play.”
QBs struggle in first scrimmage
Mullen said on Friday that MSU’s quarterbacks scuffled as the Bulldogs held their first scrimmage of the preseason on Thursday night.
Fitzgerald, Williams and Tiano all faced adversity, but Mullen said everything was correctable.
“I didn’t think they played very well at all,” Mullen said. “It’s fixable things. It’s stuff that, in a game situation, instead of managing the offense, you look and the fundamentals weren’t very good. Everything really happened fast for them instead of just trusting their reads and doing what they’re supposed to do. They kind of started slow, made some mistakes, then started trying to make plays and that made it worse.”
Ross sits out
MSU receiver Fred Ross didn’t participate in Thursday’s scrimmage as a precaution as he continues to bounce back from offseason groin surgery.
Ross said earlier this week that he felt he was 95 percent healthy. That didn’t stop Mullen from being overly cautious on Thursday.
“He didn’t do anything (on Thursday) and he won’t do anything at the next scrimmage either,” Mullen said. “He might be 100 percent. That’s good, but he can be 100 percent cheering on the sidelines. I know when I want him 100 percent and that’s going to be that first Saturday in September.”
Mullen hasn’t talked to Robinson
Mullen said he hasn’t spoken to Josh Robinson since the former running back falsely accused Mullen of calling the police on him earlier this week.
Robinson received a citation for trespassing on the MSU campus Tuesday night when a member of MSU’s track staff notified police of a car running on the MSU track. Robinson then took to social media and blamed Mullen for his troubles, claiming Mullen called the police as Robinson tried to get in a workout.
Robinson’s claims were proven to be incorrect on the police report.
“I haven’t talked to him,” Mullen said. “I didn’t spend much time to even look into it.”
MSU and Tulane schedule series
Mississippi State has announced a future home-and-home football series with Tulane. The games will take place in the 2020 and 2023 seasons.
The Bulldogs and Green Wave will meet on Oct. 3, 2020 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville. MSU will then visit Yulman Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Oct. 7, 2023.
“It’s been a pleasure working with Tulane AD Troy Dannen to renew the longstanding football series between the Bulldogs and Green Wave,” MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said. “New Orleans is a great destination for our Bulldog fans and a place we hope to get to more often in the future.”
State and Tulane haven’t faced off since Sept. 8, 2007. In that game, former MSU running back Anthony Dixon rushed for 131 yards as the Bulldogs claimed a 38-17 win.