Nick Fitzgerald says Joe Moorhead sees Heisman potential

ATLANTA -- Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald said he received an interesting introduction to his new coach, Joe Moorhead, this offseason.

Fitzgerald said the first text he received from Moorhead advised him to make some room on his bookshelf for a Heisman Trophy.

"It kind of set the tone for the relationship," he said. "I identified with that, I loved the confidence he had. I didn't know how to take it at first, telling me to make room for a Heisman, because that's not a light thing to tell somebody. But throughout the past months I can tell it wasn't a facade; it's really confidence he has in himself, his coaching staff and our players to put us in a position to maybe go win a trophy like that.

"I'm not saying that's going to happen, but that kind of thing helped me welcome him into the family."

Fitzgerald was one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC before he suffered a gruesome ankle injury during the final week of the regular season. As a junior, he threw for 1,782 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 984 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.

Fitzgerald said recovery from the injury has gone well and he could have participated in the spring game if it had been a regular season game.

In January, sports betting site Bovada gave Fitzgerald 35/1 odds to win the Heisman.

Ironically, he's also on the odds list with another former Moorhead quarterback, Penn State's Trace McSorley. Moorhead was the Nittany Lions offensive coordinator the past two seasons.

"I think there's a lot of similarities from an intangible standpoint. Both guys are very intelligent," Moorhead told reporters at SEC media days on Wednesday. "They understand the game very well, incredibly competitive. Trace, obviously from a measurable standpoint, a little bit shorter. Nick's a 6-5 guy, 235-pound guy. Both are guys that can make all of the throws. Both guys can help win with their legs in the run game and can beat you in their arms with the pass game. I think there's a lot of similarities with Trace and Nick."

Fitzgerald, who saw what a Heisman campaign looks like firsthand as Dak Prescott's backup, said the increased attention isn't exactly appealing to him, but it's something he is willing to accept.

"I'd prefer to focus just on playing," he said. "The other side of football -- the fans, the hype -- I'm not a huge fan of it. I'd rather just go out there and play on Saturdays and do what I do. ... But obviously that's not real. That's not how life is, especially for a quarterback. So I'm ready for it if it happens. I know how to handle it."

Mississippi State opens the season at home on Sept. 1 against Stephen F. Austin before going on the road Week 2 to face Kansas State.