The first full week of spring practice has wrapped up for both Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Over in Oxford, three different quarterbacks are competing for the starting job. Jaxson Dart returns after throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2022, while Spencer Sanders and Walker Howard enter the Rebels’ quarterback room via the transfer portal.
“It’s a good battle. [Jaxson] Dart’s a well-talented quarterback so is Walker Howard,” Sanders, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma State, said after Thursday’s practice. “Like everybody’s saying, we probably have the most stacked quarterback room probably across the country, and at the end of the day, it’s only going to make each other better.”
During four seasons in Stillwater, Sanders threw for 9,553 yards and 67 touchdowns with 40 interceptions. The 2021 All Big-12 selection also added 1,956 yards on the ground. Howard, a former five-star prospect, spent the 2022 season as a redshirt at LSU.
In Starkville, quarterback Will Rogers and company are learning a new system under recently hired offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay. After three years running the Air Raid under the late Mike Leach, the Bulldogs are now moving towards a more balanced system.
“At the end of the day, you can play football, or you can’t… I don’t care what system you’re in. Either you can throw and catch the ball, or you can’t,” Rogers said. “So, I think the biggest learning curve for me has just been learning the plays, [figuring out] what beats this versus this coverage, and just getting in some of the right plays offensively.”
Barbay, who comes to Mississippi State after one season at Appalachian State, led an offense in 2022 that averaged 34.9 points, 250.9 passing yards, and 204.4 rushing yards per game. Additionally, the Mountaineers had 21 plays of 40 yards plus, which was good enough for eighth in the nation.
Mississippi State and Ole Miss kick off the 2023 season on Sept. 2 against Southeastern Louisiana and Mercer, respectively.