Penn State Football

Former Penn State QB Tommy Stevens reuniting with Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State

Franklin not ready to name a starting quarterback after 2019 Blue-White

Penn State football coach James Franklin talks about not naming a starting quarterback after the Blue-White game on April 13, 2019.
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Penn State football coach James Franklin talks about not naming a starting quarterback after the Blue-White game on April 13, 2019.

Tommy Stevens and Joe Moorhead are reuniting.

Stevens — Trace McSorley’s former backup — is transferring to Mississippi State. The quarterback will have one year of eligibility left under Moorhead, who served as the Nittany Lions’ offensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017.

“I have dreamed of playing football at the highest level for as long as I can remember. Penn State made that possible for me when I was offered the opportunity back in 2014. I am forever thankful for that,” Stevens said in a statement on Twitter. “I will forever be a Nittany Lion.”

For much of his career, Stevens was expected to replace McSorley once the program record-holder’s time in Happy Valley was up. Stevens, a former three-star prospect from Indiana, nearly won the starting job in 2016, per head coach James Franklin, and electrified Beaver Stadium in limited appearances in 2017.

However, a significant foot injury forced Stevens to play through pain last season — leading to mixed results as the team’s do-it-all “Lion” in subpackages. The 6-foot-5 signal-caller underwent surgery prior to the Citrus Bowl and spent much of spring practice recovering from the procedure.

After the Blue-White Game, Franklin couldn’t commit to Stevens starting fall camp as the team’s No. 1 quarterback, saying it had to be a “true competition” between the veteran and redshirt sophomore Sean Clifford. Days after that post-spring game presser, Stevens’ father, Tom, told the CDT that his son would be “certainly leaving” Penn State — calling it the “worst-case scenario” and reiterating that 2019 was the quarterback’s “last shot” to start.

“Now that his education is over, he wants to play in the NFL. He feels like every day from here on out is an audition for the NFL,” Tom Stevens said on April 18. “He’s a firm believer that he’s going to land on his feet, and that’s the light at the end of the tunnel for him. He’s in a bad place right now mentally, having to make a decision like that. But he’s going to be better for it. ... He wishes things were different. He really does.”

Now, the Nittany Lions will move forward with Clifford at the helm in 2019, while Stevens competes for a starting job in the SEC.

Despite Stevens’ relationship with Mississippi State’s head coach, Moorhead likely won’t hand him the No. 1 spot. The Bulldogs have capable options to replace longtime starter Nick Fitzgerald, namely Keytaon Thompson.

Still, Stevens chose Mississippi State after reportedly considering Kentucky, Illinois and Miami (Ohio). In doing so, he believes this is the best chance for him to make an impact and attract NFL interest this time next year.

“Tommy is very talented and will be an excellent addition to our roster. He will have the opportunity to compete at quarterback this season,” Moorhead said in a school statement. “With nearly 100 days until kickoff, we are excited about our summer preparations as we continue to build a program that will make Mississippi State fans proud.”

Added Stevens: “I am very blessed to have the opportunity to go to a place like MSU, where I can create more relationships and more experiences. ... I couldn’t be more excited to be a Bulldog.”