Nick Fitzgerald, QB, 6-4, 235, 4.68 (40 yards), redshirt senior
Expectations for 2018:
Although Missouri's Drew Lock is the SEC senior quarterback who will receive the most NFL hype this season, there is plenty of intrigue surrounding Fitzgerald's final year in Starkville. The redshirt senior suffered a gruesome right ankle injury in last season's Egg Bowl, tearing multiple ligaments and requiring two surgeries. Fitzgerald has faced months of rest and rehab, but he is close to 100 percent and is expected to start the season opener against Stephen F. Austin.
While Fitzgerald returns, the Mississippi State offense will look significantly different with Dan Mullen leaving to take the head coaching job at Florida.
Offensive guru Joe Moorhead takes over the program and will plug Fitzgerald into his spread, RPO-heavy option offense, which also likes to push the ball through the air. Last season, Fitzgerald had nearly as many rushing scores (14) as passing touchdowns (15), but in Moorhead's scheme, most expect his passing attempts (286 in 2017) to increase and his rushing attempts (162) to decrease.
With a reconstructed ankle, undergraduate degree and new offensive support system, Fitzgerald enters the season with plenty to prove, but also enough intrigue that will have NFL scouts logging extra time in Starkville this Fall.
What the 2017 tape says:
Fitzgerald checks all the physical boxes with his tall, filled-out frame, athletic build and the arm to make all the necessary throws. He has the strapped-together body type to run over defenders or keep his feet vs. the rush.
Groomed in an option offense in high school, Fitzgerald has made significant strides as a passer since arriving at Mississippi State. He quickly moves from read-to-read and his awareness is night-and-day better than previous years, cutting down on the risky decisions.
While he has improved as a downfield passer, Fitzgerald's spotty mechanics disrupt his rhythm and lead to erratic throws. He is accurate on simple one-step or one-read throws, but his placement sees a sharp decline when the play design is disrupted, or he is asked to anticipate.
A two-star recruit out of Richmond Hill, Ga., Fitzgerald was born in Germany while his father was in the Air Force and moved around before his family settled in Georgia. He was a standout football and basketball player in high school, earning numerous accolades at quarterback. But in a triple-option offense with three times as many rush attempts than passes, the recruiting interest was minimal. His dream of playing SEC football didn't appear possible until Mullen extended an offer to play at Mississippi State, the only Power 5 program to give him a shot. After redshirting in 2014, Fitzgerald learned behind Dak Prescott in 2015 and made an immediate splash as a sophomore starter in 2016.
More Prospect Peeks