Syracuse

Across the SEC: Former Mississippi State QB Garrett Shrader brings competitiveness, excessive stage of potential to Syracuse – LSU Wire

It’s late in the fourth quarter and Mississippi State is down by a margin impossible to rebound from against LSU, but that doesn’t stop Bulldogs quarterback Garrett Shrader from completing a 90-yard march down the field in a seven-play scoring drive.

That amount of fight is a testament to the type of player that Shrader is, and is even more impressive when you consider the fact he was only a true freshman in that October meeting last year.

Not many teams gave a respectable performance against a national championship-winning LSU football team in 2019.

But there was a weak spot — the Tigers run defense had seen some issues at points against teams like Ole Miss that featured a dual-threat quarterback like freshman John Rhys Plumlee who could hold a candle to such a dominant team in their own right.

LSU gave up 212 yards on the ground to Plumlee alone that night, but he wasn’t the only running quarterback that exposed a weak spot that existed under the radar.

Shrader didn’t put up quite the same stat line, but his dominance at quarterback was very well on display as he went 17-for-28 passing with 238 passing yards and a touchdown with two interceptions (which weren’t fully to blame on him) to accompany 66 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground in the 36-13 loss to the Tigers.

That’s impressive against an LSU team of that caliber, and even more so when you’re an inexperienced player, yet again taking the reins at starting quarterback for a graduate transfer who was sidelined largely due to injury.

Shrader recalls the matchup clearly — the one that marked the second start of his career.

“They had a good defense, a lot of talented players. They weren’t real complex, really simple, didn’t do a whole lot because they didn’t have to,” he said.

He compared LSU to a team that had created a dynasty — the Alabama Crimson Tide — who LSU took down 46-41 that year, topping their rival for the first time since 2011.

“It’s kind of like Alabama — when you have good players, you don’t have to do a whole lot, you can just let them go play,” he said. “They were tough to run on, pretty stout up front, really good defensive ends, strong on the pass rush and really that’s probably what helped them play a lot more man coverage and make it easier on them.”

Former Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead, now at Oregon, was pleased with what Shrader accomplished in that matchup, and found it to be comparable to what he had done just a couple weeks before against Auburn in relief of starting quarterback Tommy Stevens.

Stevens was sidelined due to an ankle injury sustained in the second offensive series of the game.

“He really did the same thing in relief of Tommy (Stevens) at the Auburn game,” Moorhead said.” Not many people score more than 20 points on that defense… he threw a touchdown in the LSU game and did some impressive things.”

Shrader, who finished the 2019 season completing just under 58% of his passes for 1,170 yards with eight touchdowns and five interceptions on top of 587 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground, seemed to be well on his way to making himself a force within the SEC ahead of the season.

But an overhaul in the coaching staff at Mississippi State that included the firing of Moorhead painted a much different picture.

Graduate transfer KJ Costello out of Stanford seemed to be the man of the future now, and it was easy to be high on his potential.

Who couldn’t be, especially after watching him guide the Bulldogs to an upset win over the Tigers, and set an SEC single-game passing record in his first start in the conference?

It quickly became clear Shrader wasn’t the guy anymore with Costello on the campus, and it didn’t take long before he found himself no longer even listed as a quarterback.

The now-Syracuse transfer was moved to wide receiver, the last of a breed of power running quarterback who resembled the likes of his predecessors, Nick Fitzgerald and Stevens.

He was the embodiment of what the quarterback position had consistently been for the team since the Dak Prescott era, but perhaps wasn’t the strongest fit for the Air Raid offense — at least that’s what we can glean from the moves made on the depth chart and across the roster.

This wasn’t necessarily a transition he thought he’d have to make, but with the extra year of eligibility given to players with the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, he figured he’d give it a shot.

“I didn’t really plan on it,” Shrader said. “It was free year, so that’s really the only reason I entertained the idea. There was an opportunity in different packages, two-quarterback packages and stuff like that.”

But still, even listed at a different place on the roster than what he was used to, he knew his identity.

“Everybody knew that I was a quarterback,” he said.

Stevens, who was a year ahead of the Air Raid offense, obviously won’t ever be a part of it himself due to his departure to the NFL, but thinks it would be interesting to see quarterbacks like himself and Shrader employed within the scheme.

“I’ve always thought a quarterback like Garrett or myself would bring a really cool element to the air raid to make it even harder to stop,” Stevens said.

While the Air Raid wouldn’t really utilize Shrader’s mobility to its greatest extent because it’s heavily centered around the passing game, Shrader was interested in and appreciated the concepts of it.

“It’s a different style of game. I liked the system, and I think I would fit just about any system, and I think I would have done really well in that one,” Shrader said.

Shrader is looking forward to what he can accomplish with the Orange, and couldn’t be any more sure of himself and what he brings to the table as the guy taking the snaps.

“I throw the ball pretty well, I’m very athletic, I can fit just about any system. Me going to Syracuse, they kind of have the system I want to play in,” he said. “They’re really explosive, they throw the ball a lot… I think I’ll be able showcase what I can do.”

Shrader, who hardly has a presence on social media and is considered to be a bit quirky compared to many of the other quarterbacks within college football, “definitely marches to the beat of his own drummer,” in the words of Moorhead.

“I say that in a good way. He’s very quiet, very reserved,” Moorhead said. “When you get know him well, though, he opens up. Very funny kid, very good sense of humor, very dry and witty. He’s unbelievably competitive. It’s almost like two different people — the kid you see in public or in meetings, but when he steps on the field, he turns into a whole different person.”

Despite the fact Shrader is roughly four years younger than the 24-year-old Stevens, the age gap wasn’t noticeable to the graduate transfer.

“One thing that stood out to me about Garrett was his talent at such a young age,” Stevens said. “He never struck me as a young player definitely didn’t give anyone the impression of a true freshman playing in a conference as tough as the SEC.”

Shrader is far from the end of writing the story that is his college football career, but he’s already had a lasting impact on those who have been a part of his journey to this point.

“Garrett is very talented, a big, strong quarterback, young, with a lot of years left to maximize his potential,” Stevens said. “He has a ton of personality and I’m grateful for the chance I got to know him, even though it was only for a short period of time. I’m really excited to see him grow over the next few years.”

The 6-foot-4, 216-pounder is a player Moorhead recruited from the time the signal-caller was in ninth grade, while the coach was at Penn State.

“I know a couple guys from that staff, including coach (Dino) Babers, and I think he’s going to bring a tremendous amount of value to the Syracuse football program,” Moorhead said.

“When we talk about quarterback play, you want someone who can beat you with his brains, his arms and his legs, and he can certainly do all three of those things,” Moorhead said. “He can make all of the throws, very strong arm, accurate, can run the ball well by design or improvisation. He’s a winner.”

Moorhead couldn’t be any more proud of the player he wishes he could have had more time coaching, and couldn’t be more excited about his sky-high ceiling.

“The kid is a damn good football player, and a damn good quarterback. I think he’s just scratching the surface of his potential.”

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