By JOEL COLEMAN
Even though Damian Williams played the vast majority of the time in Mississippi State’s season-opening loss to South Alabama last Saturday, MSU’s quarterback situation is far from settled Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen indicated during his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
State begins Southeastern Conference play this Saturday in a 6 p.m. home game against South Carolina. Williams, Nick Fitzgerald and even freshman Nick Tiano will all get consideration for meaningful reps in the contest according to Mullen.
“Everywhere, every position on the team, everybody competes every single week for us,” Mullen said when asked if anything was decided in the quarterback battle. “We’ll see how everybody does in practice this week.”
Fitzgerald got the starting nod for the Bulldogs last weekend. The redshirt sophomore led MSU on its first two offensive series, both three-and-outs. Fitzgerald finished 0-for-3 through the air with 11 rushing yards.
Williams entered midway through the first quarter and led State to scoring drives on four straight offensive series before MSU was held scoreless the rest of the way. Williams ended his day 20-of-28 passing for 143 yards and a touchdown. The redshirt junior led the Bulldogs with 93 rushing yards.
Tiano didn’t get the chance to play against South Alabama as he still awaits his MSU debut.
Looking back on last weekend, Mullen said he’s not sure he’d change anything.
“I don’t know if I’d have used them any differently,” Mullen said.
Whoever quarterbacks the Bulldogs this weekend will be facing a South Carolina defense that surrendered just 10 points and 242 yards in a win to Vanderbilt last weekend. Whether it’s Fitzgerald, Williams or Tiano quarterbacking MSU, Mullen expects the Gamecocks to bring the heat.
“I expect (South Carolina) to come after us,” Mullen said. “(South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp) was at Auburn last year (as defensive coordinator) and came after us a lot when we were there. We expect him to bring a lot of pressure.”
There was one giant positive for MSU coming out of the loss to South Alabama last weekend. State got out of the game with no new injuries according to Mullen.
“We expect everybody (against South Carolina),” Mullen said. “There’ll be nobody missing any time after last week’s game.”
Defensive lineman Will Coleman, who has a back ailment, will likely not play against South Carolina. Mullen said last week that Coleman would miss two weeks.
Senior cornerbacks Tolando Cleveland and Cedric Jiles of course remain out. Cleveland is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Jiles is out for the first half of the season due to a broken right arm.
No update on suspensions
Defensive tackles Nick James and Jeffery Simmons, along with wide receiver Malik Dear, did not play last weekend due to suspensions.
Mullen would not give an update on their statuses for the game against South Carolina.
“We’ll let everybody know Saturday whether or not there are any issues with any suspensions,” Mullen said.
James was arrested on Sunday, August 28 on charges of driving under the influence and disturbing the peace. The city of Starkville decided not to prosecute James during his court hearing last Thursday. He and Dear were both listed as out for the South Alabama game due to a violation of team rules.
Simmons’ suspension was originally announced on June 2 following an altercation earlier this year, prior to Simmons’ arrival at MSU, in which Simmons was captured on video striking a woman multiple times. He pleaded no contest to a simple assault charge and was found guilty of malicious mischief in a Macon courtroom in late July.