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Winning Games with each Mississippi State Football Quarterback: Elijah Staley

Elijah Staley might have the most talent of any quarterback for the Bulldogs, but will his previous injuries ultimately cost him a chance to be the starter in Starkville?

NCAA Football: Northwestern State at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve done this post for each of the quarterbacks at Mississippi State, and I saved Elijah Staley until the end for a reason. It isn’t because I think he will win the quarterback job, but because I think his circumstances are the most interesting.

When Dan Mullen decided to sign two quarterbacks in the 2014 signing class, most people knew only one of them would have a real shot at getting the job after Dak Prescott moved on. Nick Fitzgerald was the first to make it to campus for Liberty Bowl practices in 2013 and spring practice in 2014. But of the two, Elijah Staley was the higher rated prospect, and I had a firm belief Staley’s talent would eventually allow him to surpass the experience of Nick Fitzgerald.

The problem Staley has is simply the fact he has been injured. He was not able to participate in Spring practice in 2015 due to injury and he missed much of Fall Camp for 2015 due to injury as well. The times when he has needed to show he can do just as much as any other quarterback on the team, Staley has often been hurt.

But Elijah Staley is healthy now. Fall Camp has begun and he wants to make an impact on Dan Mullen and the rest of the coaching staff. To do so will require him to make up a significant gap that Fitzgerald and Williams have on him.

None of this is to say Elijah Staley can’t. There have been very few players Dan Mullen has effused so much praise for as he did for Staley on National Signing Day in 2014. Mullen said he was a 5 Star prospect on their board. Some of that can be chalked up to coachspeak, but there is some truth to how Mullen felt about Staley.

And the talent is there. Staley only threw five passes in 2015, but his touchdown pass against Northwestern State might have been the best looking throw by any quarterback on the roster last season. You can see it again toward the end of this highlight reel from WCBI.

Most of us assumed Elijah Staley would be equal parts passer and runner. But what we have seen so far doesn’t match up. He is a pass first quarterback and will beat you with his legs if he has to. But that oversimplifies the abilities of Staley.

If Staley were able to make up the ground needed to win the job, the Bulldogs’ offense would have more versatility than it would under any of the other three. If the Bulldogs wanted to go read option with either Aeris Williams or Dontavian Lee, they could do that. If Mullen wanted to go four wide and then put Holloway in motion to get fifth out wide and be just as much a threat with the pass as the run, the Staley would make that possible.

Those are all things each of the quarterbacks can do, but defenses would have to respect the passing aspect of each option more with Staley in the pocket. When any of the other three went read option or spread the defnese out, defenses would likely expect a quarterback run and not a pass in those situations.

Projections with Staley

  • Passing yards: Around 3,000
  • Completion Percentage: 60% to 65%
  • Rushing Yards: 300 to 400
  • Passing Touchdowns: 20 to 25
  • Rushing Touchdowns: 3 to 5
  • Interceptions: 6 to 10
  • Win Total: 7 to 10

Elijah Staley did not have a good spring, and he lacks any significant experience. Trying to make an argument where he would be the favorite to be the starter would be silly. But he has an immense amount of talent. If he isn’t able to compete like he wants to be the starter for the Bulldogs, it will remind me of what happened to Nick Griffin. Griffin was supposed to be the best running back on the team during his time in Starkville, but he just couldn’t stay healthy long enough to get on the field and make an impact. The same might ultimately be true for Eljah Staley.