Even under the best of conditions, Mississippi State would be facing a big-time challenge this Saturday when the Bulldogs travel for an encounter at No. 2 Alabama. Well it's probably fair to consider the test all the more difficult as MSU sits just six days away from the game trying to figure out who its starting quarterback will be, as well as still apparently without perhaps its best offensive player.
Signal callers K.J. Costello and Will Rogers are "neck-and-neck" as the two fight for the starting quarterback job, Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach said on Monday at his weekly press conference. Meanwhile Hill's status remains unchanged after he missed MSU's last game against Texas A&M back on October 17.
"No update," Leach said on Hill. "He's still unavailable."
And as for the competition between Costello and Rogers: "I think they're neck and neck and we'll continue to split the reps this week for the first couple of practices," Leach said.
It was only about a month ago where things seemed totally settled for the Bulldogs at quarterback and running back. Costello set a Southeastern Conference record by passing for 623 yards in an upset win over LSU. Hill, a preseason All-SEC selection, rushed for 34 yards and had 158 yards receiving with a touchdown reception in the same game. Since then though, neither have produced all that much for the Bulldogs.
Costello has thrown eight interceptions over the last three games and was removed in the second half in favor of Rogers in each of the last two contests. Hill was injured early in the second game of the season against Arkansas and didn't return that day, then after putting up 96 yards of total offense in a loss at Kentucky, wasn't available against Texas A&M due to what Leach later called personal issues.
Given Leach's comment on Monday that Hill's status remains unchanged, it appears unlikely he'll be back for this Saturday's affair. Assuming Hill doesn't play, true freshmen Jo'Quavious Marks and Dillon Johnson would again be State's primary options at running back as they were against Texas A&M.
As for quarterback, the rest of this week at practice will shake all that out. The only thing that is clear is that it'll be either Costello or Rogers. Leach indicated on Monday that third-team signal caller Jalen Mayden isn't currently factoring into the battle and it's a two-man race between Costello and Rogers.
"We need to figure out who gives us the best spark," Leach said. "It's definitely competitive at the (quarterback) position this week."
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