HOOVER, Ala. – Many eyes will be on Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to see if he can lift the Bulldogs offense to another level this season.
The greatest area of growth that remains for the young signal-caller? To Dan Mullen, further evolution will be key.
“It is the constant development of being a quarterback,” the Mississippi State coach said. “If you look that skill set, Nick’s got size. I’m not making him any taller. He’s got the great physical physique build at about 230 pounds to be a quarterback in this league. He’s a great runner. And he’s got strong arms. He’s got the skill set to do it. But it’s the development of a quarterback. I bet if you look at Tom Brady, he’s working on his pocket, his throwing motion, thinking, ‘How do I become more accurate? How do I become a better passer?’ That is a skill, and I think that’s a skill that you can constantly work on.”
Fitzgerald offered promise last year, when he threw for 2,423 yards with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a sophomore. He produced three games with at least 300 yards passing, doing so against Massachusetts (305), Samford (417) and Arkansas (328).
However, Fitzgerald’s completion percentage left something to be desired. He closed completing 54.3 percent of his passes on 361 attempts in 2016.
Mullen, for one, wants to see more.
“The biggest strides we need to see in Nick are his consistency in throwing the football, the accuracy, the decision-making, when he’s getting the ball out, how he’s throwing, what type of throw [it is],” Mullen said.
“Those are skills that are developed over a very long period of time. And the more you can develop them, the more successful you’re going to be as a quarterback.”
For Fitzgerald and others in Starkville, there’s no shortage of motivation to improve. The Bulldogs finished with a 6-7 record last year with a victory over Miami (Ohio) in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
“He can run faster. He can break more tackles. He throw the ball a lot. He can do a lot of things,” Mississippi State wide receiver Donald Gray said.
“Now he can relax. It’s not a competition. There aren’t too many distractions. So he’s more comfortable now. There has been a lot of improvement.”