August 10, 2019 10:53:07 PM
Ben Portnoy - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- Tommy Stevens is riding high.
Speaking with gathered reporters at Mississippi State football media day Saturday, Stevens expressed his thoughts on how his game has progressed through the first seven days of fall camp as he continues to battle junior Keytaon Thompson for the No. 1 job.
"I think that if you were to go by the numbers this is my best camp so far if you go by completion percentage and things that I've done throwing the football," he said. "Obviously there's been mistakes made and there's been things I've been able to learn from watching tape so there's room to improve. But overall I think I've done a really good job."
Stevens' words aside, MSU coach Joe Moorhead remained coy on when he will name a starter-- though he did double down on his loose timeline of wanting to name the No. 1 guy 10 days before the season opener against Louisiana Aug. 31 in New Orleans.
This Saturday, the Bulldogs will partake in their first scrimmage of the fall in what should give a glimpse into who the frontrunner in the competition will be heading into the second week of camp.
"I really like the vibe the team is carrying right now," Stevens said. "Just got to keep getting better every day."
Rivers leading the way
It's no secret MSU is replacing plenty on the defensive line.
With Montez Sweat, Jeffery Simmons, Gerri Green and Braxton Hoyett off to the NFL, the Bulldogs will rely heavily on a bevy on older, albeit inexperienced, players up front in 2019.
Anchoring that bunch is senior defensive end Chauncey Rivers. A one-time Georgia player, Rivers is among the more experienced returners and is a logical replacement for Sweat on the outside.
"My knowledge of the game and knowing every detail of the defense has improved," he said. "My pass rushing has gotten a lot better -- I'm just ready to play."
Starting running back junior Kylin Hill offered his own analysis of the defensive line and what he's seen in his attempts to weasel his way through the trenches during the first week of fall camp.
"It's just a group of young guys that are ready for the challenge," he said. "A lot of people say they're young or they don't have the experience because we did lose a lot, but they also learned a lot from those guys so they're ready to step up."
Running against this year's defensive line has also aided his game, Hill added.
"We've got some of the best defensive linemen in the country," he said. "And it's only made me better. If I can beat those guys, then I believe I can beat anybody in the country."
In all, MSU must cope with the losses of Sweat, Simmons, Green and Hoyett, though Rivers is leading the charge expediting that process.
"It's a lot of competition every day that makes the unit better," Rivers said.
Transfers, injuries, and more
Kareem Walker is still not in Starkville.
Asked for an update on the former Michigan running back's situation, Moorhead said there is none and that Walker continues to work through administrative issues that have stalled his arrival.
The same can be said for South Alabama transplant Corliss Waitman. His waiver for a sixth year of eligibility was denied and he is seeking an appeal. Moorhead said that his situation is "out of our hands."
On the injury front, junior linebacker Willie Gay Jr. is expected back early next week. The Starkville High School product has been a non-participant in practice over the past four days as his right foot has been placed in a boot.
Moorhead said he will not take part in Saturday's scrimmage.
Lastly, five-star freshman tackle Charles Cross appears headed toward a redshirt. Offensive line coach Marcus Johnson expressed a desire to add significant weight to his frame before sending into the trenches against the SEC's formidable interior fronts.
"He's just got to put on weight," Johnson said. "My thing to him is 'Hey man you've got treat this thing like you're going to play this year because who knows what's going to happen.'"
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.