Mississippi State's K.J. Costello and Will Rogers to continue splitting No. 1 reps ahead of Alabama game


Mississippi State freshman quarterback Will Rogers drops back to pass against Texas A&M on Oct. 17 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville. The Bulldogs lost 28-14

Mississippi State freshman quarterback Will Rogers drops back to pass against Texas A&M on Oct. 17 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville. The Bulldogs lost 28-14 Photo by: Mansel Guerry/Mississippi State Athletics


Ben Portnoy



STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State quarterback conundrum remains ongoing.


Speaking with the media Monday, head coach Mike Leach revealed that he anticipates Stanford graduate transfer K.J. Costello and freshman Will Rogers will continue sharing No. 1 reps for at least the next few days ahead of MSU's meeting with No. 2 Alabama on Saturday in Tuscaloosa.


"I think they're neck and neck," Leach said. "We'll continue to split the reps this week for the first couple of practices."



While Costello burst onto the national scene with a Southeastern Conference-record 623 yards passing against then-No. 6 LSU in Week 1, the former Cardinal signal-caller has been inconsistent at best over the past three weeks. In starts against Arkansas, Kentucky and No. 8 Texas A&M, he's completed 66.9 percent of his throws for a meager 644 yards, one touchdown and eight interceptions. Costello was also benched in contests against Kentucky and Texas A&M for his inability to move the MSU offense.


In response, Rogers proved mildly effective in mop-up duty against the Wildcats and Aggies. Through parts of two career games, the Brandon native has completed 24 of 33 passes for one touchdown and two interceptions.


"I look at Will as a young guy that has a lot of leadership in him," senior linebacker Erroll Thompson said following MSU's loss to Texas A&M. "He's a great player. I expect that from him."


Though it's unclear on who becomes the starter Saturday at Alabama, past precedent suggests the battle between Costello and Rogers could carry deep into the 2020 campaign.


Leach flip-flopped between quarterbacks Luke Falk and Tyler Hilinski throughout the 2017 season at Washington State. Just a sophomore at the time, Hilinski appeared in eight games, attempting 178 passes for seven touchdowns and seven interceptions, while Falk shouldered the heavier load with 534 passes to his name.


Leach said Monday the parallel isn't exact, but there are some similarities between the 2017 conundrum and what he's facing in his first year in Starkville.


"I mean you're looking for the guy that can run the unit the best," he said. "You don't want to go out there and have some stagnant effort on offense. Not really uninspired, but just not playing together as well. So, you're always looking for something to spark that. I think from that standpoint it's similar."


Through five weeks of the 2020 season, Leach has yet to update the depth chart since MSU's season opener against LSU. Monday, that same roster was distributed to media members, offering little insight as to who might take the first snap under center.


Leach noted he'd like to settle the competition for the foreseeable future, but whether that happens this week or in the games to come remains to be seen.


"Long story short, I think the more exposure they have, the better," Leach said of how patient he is with quarterbacks that are new to his system. "Both guys have performed well in practice. I don't really like splitting reps with quarterbacks. I like to settle on one. I would prefer that approach, but we've been awfully up and down. We need to figure out who gives us the best spark. It's definitely competitive at the position this week."



Other notes


- Leach did not afford any update on senior running back and Columbus native Kylin Hill on Monday. Hill did not dress for MSU's loss to Texas A&M on Oct. 17. It remains unclear as to when he will return to the field.


- It's expected MSU will use a handful of options to replace safety Fred Peters, who is expected to miss the rest of the season due to an undisclosed injury for which he had surgery last week according to Leach.


"We've got a committee doing pretty good," Leach said Monday. "I don't know if [defensive coordinator] Zach [Arnett]'s going to maintain the committee or if he's got a specific one. I suspect it'll be a couple of guys."




Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.


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