Mike Leach expects K.J. Costello to be Mississippi State's starting quarterback at LSU

Joel Coleman

What has long been assumed is now essentially official. K.J. Costello should be Mississippi State’s starting quarterback in the season opener.

Bulldogs head coach Mike Leach said on Monday he expects Costello to start at LSU when the season kicks off this Saturday.

Costello, the graduate transfer from Stanford, was considered the favorite for the job ever since he announced this past spring that he was heading to Starkville. Leach frequently mentioned Costello as the frontrunner throughout preseason camp, but even as recently as last week, Costello said he hadn’t been told by Leach that he was at the top of the depth chart.

“He hasn’t said that yet,” Costello noted last Tuesday. “But I’ve taken the majority of the one-reps in camp.”

Of course now, Leach has pretty much confirmed it. It gives Mississippi State a proven passer to captain the offense in the first year of Leach’s Bulldog version of the Air Raid.

Costello previously started 25 total games as Stanford’s quarterback. And while his junior season in 2019 was derailed due to injuries, in 2018, Costello looked very much like a signal caller that could excel in Leach’s pass-happy system.

Costello put together one of the best seasons by a quarterback in Stanford history that year. He started all 13 games as a sophomore in 2018, earning All-Pac-12 Second Team honors as he completed 269 of his 413 passes (65.1 percent) for 3,540 yards and 29 touchdowns. The 3,540 yards were the second most in a single season in school history and the 29 passing touchdowns were the third-most all-time in a single year at Stanford.

For his career, Costello has a 62.5 percent career completion percentage with a whopping 6,151 yards passing and 49 touchdowns through the air.

Now, the veteran will look to add to those totals, be a strong engine for the Mississippi State offense and possibly boost his resume for an early selection in next spring’s NFL Draft.

“He’s a student of the game,” Leach said of Costello earlier in preseason camp. “The other thing is he’s the same guy every snap. He’s not a guy that gets rattled. That creates a level of stability with the offense.”

Behind Costello on the depth chart is true freshman Will Rogers. Rogers has impressed throughout camp, so much so that sophomore Garrett Shrader – who started four games at quarterback for the Bulldogs a year ago – was moved to slot receiver.

"I’ve been real impressed with (Rogers' mindset),” Leach said. “You know, a freshman comes in, one thing is the reps and the plays, but one of the biggest hurdles sometimes those guys have is the confidence to feel like they belong there and where they go out there timid like a freshman. He hasn’t done that. He goes out there and competes like he should be there. I think that’s allowed him to compete even quicker."

Rogers will have to wait his turn though. For now, it seems it'll be Costello trying to get Leach's Air Raid off the ground at Mississippi State.

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