STARKVILLE – Depth charts are just pieces of paper.
Mississippi State's depth chart has true freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader listed above graduate senior Tommy Stevens ahead of this weekend's game against Alabama. There's one word that complicates everything, though: "OR."
MSU head coach Joe Moorhead said both QBs are in line to play Saturday. He called the duo "QB 1A and QB 1B" in no particular order during his Monday press conference.
Stevens took most of Sunday's practice reps with the starters while Shrader, who missed the Arkansas game on Nov. 2 with "general health issues," ran with the reserves.
Shrader has almost fully recovered and Stevens is as healthy as he's been all season, which might lead some to believe Stevens gets the start this week. Stevens, after all, was the team's clear No. 1 QB entering the season. He was 12-of-18 for 172 yards and two touchdowns with 15 carries and 74 yards in the 30-point win over Arkansas.
"Seeing him throw it accurately and create explosive plays and seeing him run the ball was good," Moorhead said.
Still, Moorhead wasn't fully committed to officially giving Stevens the starting designation.
"We're going to keep practicing and keep giving them reps throughout the week," he said. "Maybe one, maybe the other, maybe both."
In addition to the health status of each QB, the age gap between Stevens and Shrader could play a role against Alabama, ranked No. 4 in the Amway Coaches Poll. Stevens is a month away from turning 23 while Shrader turned 19 in August.
"Tommy, from an experience standpoint, has seen more things during the course of his career," Moorhead said. "Heading into a game against an opponent of this caliber, he can fall back a little bit on that experience."
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Mississippi State has played both Stevens and Shrader in some capacity in four of its five games this season. Stevens was ravaged by injuries in the first half of the season while the bug has bit Shrader in the second half.
It's been a whirlwind of a season for each quarterback. Stevens dealt with shoulder and ankle ailments before losing his starting job with a poor performance in the first half of Mississippi State's loss to Tennessee.
Shrader took his spot and was the talk of the town even though his numbers haven't been particularly stout. Shrader is completing 55.1% of his passes this season and has thrown seven touchdowns to five interceptions. Stevens is completing 63.2% of his throws and has tossed seven touchdowns and four picks.
Even with Stevens' production on the ground against Arkansas, Shrader has by far been the better runner. He has 504 yards on 5.5 yards per carry. Stevens has 126 yards on 2.6 yards per carry.
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Both quarterbacks have been serviceable and have at times shown flashes of brilliance. That's why Moorhead isn't ruling out seeing both of them on the field at Davis Wade Stadium this week. It would be the fifth time that's happened this season, after all.
"We're going to need both of them like we have throughout the season," Moorhead said.
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