Penn State Football

Former Penn State QB Tommy Stevens named starter at Mississippi State

Tommy Stevens on opportunity to start at Penn State

Tommy Stevens waited his turn behind Trace McSorley. Now he’s ready for what lies ahead.
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Tommy Stevens waited his turn behind Trace McSorley. Now he’s ready for what lies ahead.

Former Penn State quarterback Tommy Stevens transferred from Happy Valley to earn a starting job. Now, he has one.

Stevens was named Mississippi State’s starter Thursday afternoon, according to the football program.

The Indiana native transferred to the SEC program in May, several weeks after Nittany Lions coach James Franklin told reporters he could not name an injured Stevens the starter at that point. “It’s going to be more of a true competition,” Franklin said.

That didn’t appear to sit well with Stevens or his family. Stevens’ father, Tom, told the Centre Daily Times that they discussed Stevens’ situation with the staff during the winter and “reiterated” they could not wait until August to find out whether he was starting.

After all, as a fifth-year senior, this was Stevens’ last shot to prove himself to NFL scouts — no easy task to achieve from the bench. So, four days after Franklin gave that quote following the Blue-White Game, Stevens announced his intent to transfer.

“He came to Penn State to be the starting guy. For it to end up like this, it tore Tommy apart,” Tom Stevens told the CDT in April. “He loves Penn State. ... He really went back and forth with this. It’s been really, really, really difficult. But he understands that it’s a business at the end of the day.”

But Stevens found a home in Starkville, Miss., from former Penn State offensive coordinator and current Bulldogs head coach Joe Moorhead.

It was a match made in Happy Valley and proved too perfect for either party to pass up. Moorhead hinted earlier this week he knew the starter — “I have an idea and might let y’all know this week,” he told Saturday Down South on Tuesday — and Stevens is finally getting what he’s hoped for since losing out to Trace McSorley in a QB competition in 2016.

Stevens beat out junior Keytaon Thompson for the job this time. Thompson was the primary backup for Nick Fitzgerald last season, and he’s 2-0 in his career with 18 career touchdowns.

Stevens wore a lot of hats in his four years with Penn State. He backed up McSorley, but he also saw time on the field as the “Lion,” essentially a new spot that lined him up at different positions and allowed him to run, pass or catch.

He finished his Big Ten career with 304 passing yards, 506 rushing yards and 62 receiving yards. He had 10 rushing/receiving TDs, to go along with four passing touchdowns.

He and Moorhead’s Bulldogs will take on Louisiana-Lafayette at noon Aug. 31.

Penn State and James Franklin have not yet announced a starting quarterback, although Sean Clifford is considered the heavy favorite. Franklin offered no updates Tuesday on his QB competition: “We haven’t even talked about it. Honestly. Swear to God.”

The Nittany Lions will face Idaho in their opener at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 31.

Josh Moyer earned his B.A. in journalism from Penn State and his M.S. from Columbia. He’s been involved in sports and news writing for nearly 20 years. He counts the best athlete he’s ever seen as Tecmo Super Bowl’s Bo Jackson.