Mississippi State just improved the depth at the quarterback position. Keytaon Thompson has decided not to explore his transfer options any further and will remain with the Mississippi State program, head coach Joe Moorhead announced on Monday.
Thompson has already returned to Mississippi State football practices and has been slotted as the second-string quarterback behind starter Tommy Stevens (who transferred to the program from Penn State to reunite with his former offensive coordinator, Moorhead). Thompson explored his transfer options by entering his name in the NCAA transfer portal one day after Stevens had been named the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs by Moorhead. Such a move by a quarterback not being named the starter has been a common occurrence over the past year, and a handful of transfer quarterbacks have gotten off to stellar starts this season (Justin Fields at Ohio State, Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma, and Jacob Eason at Washington to name a few).
Thompson’s decision to stay at Mississippi State is a nice boost for Moorhead. Thompson is a former four-star recruit from the New Orleans area and he likely would have had some worthwhile options to explore if he wanted. Among those options likely could have been Florida, where former Mississippi State Dan Mullen and a number of former Mississippi State staff members who were involved in his original recruiting now reside. But with Thompson deciding to stay in Starkville, at least for now, gives Moorhead another player with the potential to rely on in the offense. And given Moorhead’s past as an offensive coordinator at Penn State in finding ways to utilize Stevens when he had Trace McSorley locked in as a starting quarterback, perhaps the head coach will find some ways to get Thompson involved in the offense as the season continues.
The instant Tommy Stevens entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal, a possible reunion with Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead felt somewhat obvious. Now, according to a report, Stevens could be one step closer to joining the Bulldogs.
Stevens, who is transferring from Penn State and is officially in the transfer portal, reportedly has scheduled three official visits for the next week. As reported by 247 Sports, the visits will begin with Miami Ohio this weekend and continue with a trip to Illinois at the beginning of next week. Mississippi Strate will get the last chance to make a sales pitch next Thursday.
Stevens previously played under Moorehead when the Bulldogs head coach was the offensive coordinator at Penn State. While Stevens was not a starter for the Nittany Lions, Moorhead found ways to get the athletically gifted athlete involved in the offense as a receiver, runner or passer. Penn State scaled back how much they tried getting Stevens involved last season.
Stevens will be eligible to play right away this season wherever he ends up going.
The most likely successor to Trace McSorley at Penn State could be looking to play ball elsewhere this fall. Tommy Stevens, who had been assumed to be the next starting quarterback for Penn State by many this offseason, has reportedly entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal.
Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle was the first to report news of Stevens entering the transfer portal, via Twitter. The Centre Daily Times followed up with a confirmed report.
By adding his name to the transfer portal, Stevens can now make official contact with any other football program looking to add a quarterback to their roster. While this does not necessarily rule out a return to the Nittany Lions in the fall, it seems that most players entering the transfer portal tend to take their game elsewhere when all is said and done. A number of Penn State players have taken advantage of the transfer portal this season, although Penn State has seen players withdraw their name from the portal as well to remain in Happy Valley. We’ll see what the future holds for Stevens.
Stevens backed up McSorley as Penn State’s quarterback the last couple of seasons. Penn State used Stevens in a variety of ways in the offense at times too by sending him out as a receiver at times the last two seasons. Stevens rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 110 yards with a touchdown and an interception last fall. He added just two receptions for two yards after catching 12 passes for 60 yards and two touchdowns in 2017.
As a graduating senior, Stevens will have immediate eligibility in 2019, and he could potentially star at a number of programs in need of a boost at quarterback.
If Stevens is on the move, that likely leads Penn State to put the keys to the offense in the hands of Sean Clifford, who James Franklin suggested would continue to battle for the starting job with Stevens leading up to the start of the 2019 season. That competition would likely be over if Stevens leaves Penn State for another playing opportunity.
With Trace McSorley moving on from the Nittany Lions after starting the past three seasons, Penn State head coach James Franklin isn’t quite ready to anoint the next starting quarterback. He did, however, say Tommy Stevens will begin the spring at the top of the depth chart.
“Obviously we’re not in a situation to name a starter really at any position,” Franklin said on Wednesday when addressing the media on signing day, according to Lions 247. “But, yeah, when we start out, you know, you’ve got to put them in order. So Tommy will be No. 1 and [Sean Clifford] will be No. 2 and [Will Levis] will be No. 3 and so forth down the line.”
We probably shouldn’t read too much into this statement, as Franklin is committed to competition at a number of positions beginning this spring. A final decision may not even be made at the end of the spring if the level of play between Stevens and Clifford (and Levis) is fairly even. But somebody has to take the first reps in the spring, and that will fall on Stevens.
This hardly a shocking development in Happy Valley. Stevens had been the primary backup to McSorley each of the past two seasons and he had been projected to be the most likely successor at the position once McSorley graduated. Stevens underwent offseason surgery that left him unavailable for Penn State’s bowl game. As Franklin suggested in December, the timing of the surgery for Stevens was discussed, and it is expected Stevens will be available to participate in spring practices.
Stevens appeared in seven games for Penn State last season, in which he completed eight of 11 pass attempts for 110 yards and a touchdown with an interception. Stevens also carried the football 28 times for 118 yards and two touchdowns and he caught two passes for a total of two yards as he was sparingly used in other positions on the field with McSorley.
Clifford may have the best shot to push Stevens for playing time. The former four-star recruit appeared in four games last season for the Nittany Lions, sometimes entering a game before Stevens was given a chance to play. By appearing in just four games, Clifford can preserve his redshirt year and still has four years of eligibility to use. Clifford could likely be the successor to Stevens if he doesn’t impress enough in the spring to make a case for the starting job right now.
WHO: No. 12 Penn State (9-3) vs. No. 14 Kentucky (9-3)
WHAT: The 73rd VRBO Citrus Bowl
WHEN: 1:00 p.m. ET on ABC
WHERE: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
THE SKINNY: Kentucky is going for the first 10-win season in school history in over three decades. Penn State is looking for a third-straight double-digit win season for the first time since joining the Big Ten. Something will have to give as both Kentucky and Penn State see the final games played by some influential playmaker in a college uniform.
Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen has collected a good amount of hardware this past awards season as he cements his legacy as one of the top defensive players to ever wear a Kentucky uniform. Playing one final game rather than sit out to focus on the NFL Draft is a testament to how much Allen wants to help the Wildcats accomplish a rare feat of a 10-win season before he moves on to the next level. He will be tasked to making sure Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley doesn’t get opportunities to make big plays with his arm or his legs. McSorley has been banged up this season but the time off before the bowl game may have helped get him closer to being the player Penn State needs him to be. With backup quarterback Tommy Stevens not available due to offseason surgery, it will be McSorley or bust for the Nittany Lions.
The running back matchup with Kentucky’s Benny Snell and Penn State’s Miles Sanders should be fairly even and just as much of a factor in the outcome of this game. Neither defense has a way of shutting everything down against the run so Snell and Sanders could have some opportunities to do some damage. But in the end, Penn State may have the edge of their receivers and tight ends keep their hands on the football.
THE LINE: Penn State -7.0
THE PREDICTION: Penn State 34, Kentucky 26