ATLANTA - When Joe Moorhead agreed to become Mississippi State's head coach, his first order of business was to send a text message to his new quarterback.
This wasn't an ordinary, nice-to-meet-you message, however.
"He said, 'I want you to clear off a spot on your mantel for the Heisman Trophy, and I want you to know what your ring size is right now. You're going to need it.,'" Nick Fitzgerald said.
How is that for an introduction?
"I didn't know how to take it at first," Fitzgerald said. "Once I met him and was around him, I could tell it was real. It was real confidence. I'm not saying (winning the Heisman) is where I'm going to be, but I like his confidence."
With 18 starters including Fitzgerald returning, there is no shortage of confidence in Starkville for Moorhead's first season. The return of Fitzgerald is a principal reason.
Fitzgerald threw for 1,782 yards and 15 touchdowns a season ago while rushing for 984 yards and 14 touchdowns. That was under Dan Mullen, the Bulldogs' former head coach who groomed Fitzgerald from a lightly recruited player to a standout in the SEC.
Now, Fitzgerald sees himself having more room for growth under a new offensive-minded head coach. Moorhead spent the last two seasons as Penn State's offensive coordinator, coaching another Heisman contender - Trace McSorley.
"I think there's a lot of similarities from an intangible standpoint," Moorhead said. "Both guys are very intelligent. They understand the game very well and are incredibly competitive."
Fitzgerald said to expect more deep passes in Moorhead's system this season.
"What's going to help me is his scheme, his playcalling," Fitzgerald said. "The schemes he has feel more natural to me. It's a little bit easier for me to make those reads compared to what it was last year."
Fitzgerald said he is fully recovered from a gruesome ankle injury that knocked him out of the Egg Bowl and forced him to miss the Bulldogs' bowl game. Fitzgerald said he felt 100 percent by May.
"If I needed to play a game tomorrow, I'm good," he said.