Mississippi State football faces one of the toughest schedules in the nation -- if not the most difficult in the country -- heading into the 2022 season.
But while the opponents the Bulldogs face are tough, it's important to note this is an older and more experienced team in Year 3 of the Mike Leach era than it was in Year 1. The Bulldogs feature talent of both sides of the ball with players like junior quarterback Will Rogers showing enough upside to potentially become early-round picks in either 2023 or 2024.
Rogers has largely flown under-the-radar to this point, but has started to garner more national attention and is among the candidates to experience a meteoric rise and become one of the country's best signal-callers.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder took a huge step in the back half of the 2021 season, growing immensely in ball placement, release time and overall decision-making. He made his way into both the school and conference record books, most notably breaking the SEC single-game completion percentage record as he completed 92.3% of his passes in the upset victory over No. 12-ranked Kentucky.
Especially when it comes to translating to the next level, there's still to a degree a stigma surrounding Air Raid quarterbacks, despite the success of players like Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield.
This is something Rogers is aware of, but doesn't see as anything that should hinder him. If anything, this offense keeps quarterbacks more honest when it comes to throwing the ball and handling the responsibility of essentially becoming a coach on the field than any other system.
"The Air Raid offense has taken a big step. It's definitely in the NFL and a lot more people are doing Air Raid concepts," Rogers told me back in June. "I think people kind of bash on the Air Raid when it comes to talking about the next level, but I think if you can throw the ball into into drop eight [coverage] and windows that are that small that you'll be able to do it at any level so that's my take on it."
The only area Rogers appears to be a bit behind in is footwork, but that's something he's used the offseason and sessions with quarterback trainers.
"I'm working on being more consistent with my footwork," Rogers said. "Obviously we do things differently on our offense so my footwork is not always matched up like some of these other guys. But I think if the ball is coming out well and coming out on time then I'll be just fine."
Another aspect of Rogers' game that is underrated is the level of mobility he brings to the table. Rogers is by no means an extremely athletic quarterback, but he can easily evade pressure and can move well enough to make plays with his legs and be used on designed quarterback runs.
It's not frequently on display because the Air Raid doesn't ask quarterbacks to run often but it has shown up on the field before and has been apparent in team practices open to the media.
With the way the NFL is trending, there's a need for a quarterback to be able to move to a certain degree and mobility is always an advantageous trait. But the best quarterbacks throughout history have always been pass-first or have over their careers developed into elite passers from the pocket in addition to being mobile even if they were somewhat lacking in that area before.
Coming from an offense that stresses accuracy and getting the ball out fast, Rogers should check all the boxes on what an NFL team is looking for between his intangibles, polished passing ability and ability to play a role on the ground as long as he keeps the momentum from the second half of last season going into 2022.