Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has tossed 40 touchdown passes over the last two seasons and led the Rebels out of the SEC cellar.
He sat out last spring practice recovering from shoulder surgery but will go through spring drills this season, despite that shoulder still being a little sore.
"I feel like strength-wise, I'm a lot better than I was at the end of the year," Wallace told OleMissSports.com. "It's not exactly where I want it to be. From the time period I have had to get it right, I feel good about it. I have been throwing. Every day, I stay an hour or an hour and 15 minutes extra working on shoulder stuff and mobility stuff."
|Bo Wallace's Stats at Ole Miss|
|Year||Comp.||Att.||Comp. %||Yds.||TDs||INTs||Rush Yds.||Rush TDs|
So what does he need to work on this spring to help the Rebel offense take the next step?
Cut Down on Taking Risks
Wallace has been rather efficient over these last two seasons, completing 64.3 percent of his passes (518 of 805), but too many of those incompletions were actually completions...to the other team. He threw 10 interceptions last season and 17 as a sophomore in 2012; that simply won't cut it.
Sure, he was better last season, but now he won't have Donte Moncrief—who led the team with 938 receiving yards and six touchdowns—to rely on. Laquon Treadwell will be a solid No. 1, but he's going to have to develop the same kind of chemistry Moncrief had with Wallace.
That's not to say it can't happen. Wallace certainly looked confident in Treadwell last season as the two connected on 72 passes. But Treadwell (8.44 YPC) was primarily used as a short-yardage possession receiver. He needs to become a deep threat in addition to a receiver who moves the chains in order to help Wallace out.
What would be even more helpful for Wallace is for his teammates to take a little bit off his plate. The Rebels have had speed on the edge at running back and talent at wide receiver throughout his career, but they haven't really had a bruiser at running back. That responsibility has fallen on Wallace's shoulders at times, which is never a good thing for a quarterback who's nursing a shoulder injury.
"He didn't get to do any offseason training last year and that showed as the year went on and his arm strength deteriorated some," head coach Hugh Freeze told OleMissSports.com. "We're confident that it should be stronger, and hopefully it will stay consistently strong."
If Ole Miss can find an every-down back between the tackles, that will take pressure off of Wallace as a runner and allow the Rebels to become more of a run-first team out of the spread.
That could cut down on risks he takes through the air, allow the Rebels to be multidimensional in the red zone (they were 13th in the SEC in red-zone touchdown percentage last season at 52.17 percent) and give the offense much more balance overall.
Speed Up the Delivery
Wallace has been effective in the SEC, but some of his mistakes stem from the fact that he telegraphs where he's going with the football at times. Part of the reason is a slow delivery that allows defenders a little longer to recognize and adjust to where he's throwing the football.
As you see in the highlights above from the Music City Bowl win over Georgia Tech, he brings the ball back down low and takes a while to get it out of his hand.
It's not the worst problem in the world to have. Wallace certainly makes it work.
But if he can speed up his delivery without sacrificing accuracy or velocity, it's something that not only could help his team this year but also increase his chances of impressing NFL scouts when he moves on from Oxford.
If he works on it and loses accuracy or velocity, or simply doesn't feel comfortable, he can always go back to the way he's been doing things.
Put the End of Last Year Behind Him
Ole Miss lost the Egg Bowl to Mississippi State in heartbreaking fashion, and Wallace's mistakes were a big reason why. He threw three picks in the 17-10 loss and fumbled heading into the end zone trying to tie the game up in overtime on the game's final play.
But it wasn't just the Egg Bowl loss where he struggled. He didn't throw a touchdown and tossed a pick the previous week against Missouri in a home game in which the Rebels could have played spoiler and knocked the Tigers out of the SEC East race.
His arm strength had deteriorated, and he was playing through the flu late in the season, according to Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger, but those games still happened—sick or not.
Wallace can't let what happened down the stretch and during the Egg Bowl loss haunt him, even though that's easier said than done in a football-crazy state.
The Pulaski, Tenn., native has everything it takes to be a start and has been putting those pieces together for the last two seasons in Oxford. If he puts a few more together, he could get the Rebels into contention in the SEC West.
* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com.