By JOEL COLEMAN
Redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Tiano had a big smile on his face Monday night as he met with reporters at Mississippi State’s Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex. Earlier in the day, MSU head coach Dan Mullen had announced that junior Damian Williams and sophomore Nick Fitzgerald had risen to the top of the depth chart for the Bulldogs heading into Saturday’s season opener against South Alabama, thus leaving the youngster, Tiano, out of the running for State’s vacant starting quarterback position.
That potentially disappointing news didn’t dampen the spirits of the wide-eyed kid from Chattanooga, Tennessee, however. Tiano understood. Still a few months shy of his 20th birthday, Tiano’s maturity shined through as he discussed waiting for his turn to guide the Bulldog offense.
“Me being a freshman, I’ve never prepared for a game, never stayed in the hotel with the team and never been in a game before,” Tiano said. “I think there are still some things I need to do to just get ready to play.”
Big things surely await Tiano in the years to come. The 6-foot-4, 239-pounder was the top quarterback recruit out of the state of Tennessee for the Class of 2015. He’s loaded with potential.
Even though Tiano won’t be MSU’s starter to begin 2016, that promise will surely get the chance to shine in spots. Mullen admits Tiano’s MSU debut is imminent.
“Nick Tiano is still going to get some reps for us at this point,” Mullen said. “I think he has a bright future. I think in the short term, (Williams and Fitzgerald) being a little older and having more reps put them in a position to be a little bit more ready to play game one right now.”
Tiano doesn’t plan to get complacent while he waits his turn. He says he intends to keep developing and growing.
“I think it’s just getting ready,” Tiano said of what he needs to improve. “I think I just need a little more time right now because you can’t make up for reps. That’s it and every single day with every rep I get, that is what I am trying to get better at.”
Perhaps Tiano will see his first action as a Bulldog late in Saturday’s game. Maybe it’ll come later this season. Either way, Tiano isn’t fretting. He says he’s going to go into every game prepared to play.
“Practice is just a grind every day and now you get to a point where you got something to look forward to every Saturday and something that you are clearly working and preparing for,” Tiano said. “That is very exciting and something I haven’t done in awhile.
“Whether I get one snap Saturday, zero snaps or 100 snaps, whatever I get, I am going to do my best with it and just play as hard as I can and be ready to go.”
Tiano concluded his comments Monday by walking around the media room, shaking the hand of every reporter and thanking them for their time. That sense of humility and respect is quickly endearing Tiano to his teammates and MSU officials.
Soon, Tiano will get his chance to win them over with his play on the gridiron, too.
“You never know how it goes,” Tiano said. “That is why I am going to prepare every week and get ready to play. Whatever role I have on the team, I will do it to the best of my ability.”