Former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli—dismissed from the program by Duck head coach Chip Kelly for a series of bad decisions and a couple of run-ins with legal authorities—has reportedly finished his undergraduate degree requirements at Oregon, allowing the possibility of his transfer to another FBS school with the ability to play football this season.
According to Steve Andress of KEZI News in Eugene, Oregon, Masoli has recently had contact with the Houston Nutt-led Ole Miss Rebels.
As reports of Masoli’s interest in and contact with Rebels staff began surfacing on message boards earlier this weekend, first instinct pushed it aside as nothing more than one of the myriad improbable—the one nice word I could come up with—postulations such mediums are littered with.
However, an unsolicited email from a source close to the program with the four simple words, “We’ve talked to him,” and nothing else, altered my attention to the matter.
The first thing that ran through my mind is—if the interest in Masoli pans out—Nutt must have some serious concerns about projected starting quarterback Nathan Stanley.
Ole Miss heads into the 2010 season untested in many key positions, but front and center of these is under center.
Gone is two-year starter Jevan Snead, who left school with a year of eligibility remaining and—after going undrafted—is trying to earn a roster spot with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That left third-year sophomore Nathan Stanley and redshirt freshman Raymond Cotton as the only two scholarship quarterbacks on the spring roster.
JUCO signee Randall Mackey arrived on campus during the summer, but the limited time he has had to learn the playbook and his own skill set may prevent him from becoming anything more than chief playmaker in the Wild Rebel formation this season.
Stanley never grabbed ahold of the starting job during spring ball, and ended up the projected starter almost by default, due to a partially torn labrum on Cotton’s throwing shoulder. Still, Nutt and his coaching staff seemed comfortable with Stanley at the helm when occasion arose to discuss the subject.
However, the only way any of the Masoli-to-Ole Miss talk has any gravity is if Nutt and his staff have soured on the idea of Stanley leading the Rebels on the field in 2010.
The road from perdition to redemption is paved by talent, and Masoli—mentioned as a possible Heisman contender before finding trouble—has shown talent enough to render his reemergence elsewhere a surprise to no one.
In two seasons in Eugene, Masoli has thrown for just under 3900 yards and 28 TDs, collecting another 23 TDs on the ground.
Talent is not the question concerning Masoli, toxicity is the issue.
When weighing the scales on bringing a tarnished star into your program, they are set to measure two things: Satiating Positional Need versus Risk of Failed Attempt.
The question then becomes not so much what Masoli can do for your program if you bring him in and things go well, but rather what Masoli can do to your program if you bring him in and things do not.
That is what Coach Houston Nutt is pondering right now.
Nutt has the Rebels trending upwards heading into his third year at Ole Miss, earning back-to-back nine-win seasons at a school that had not seen the like in roughly 50 years. He has also brought in consecutive Top-20 recruiting classes and this year’s class—though very early in the process—looks to be the best yet.
Ole Miss—particularly on offense—has no identity entering the 2010 season, having lost Snead, RB Dexter McCluster, WR Shay Hodge, and all of the interior line.
If Nutt and Company decides that Stanley lacks the stuff an SEC quarterback should possess, and Cotton’s shoulder cannot carry the load for an entire season, Masoli is an attractive option.
I will not feign any moral outrage at Masoli becoming a Rebel, and will give no weight to the initial bad press sure to follow such a move. It is easy to demand moral consistency when one’s morals are untested.
Show me a program that has never given a second chance to a talented kid and I’ll show you a program that has never competed.
This is about winning college football games, and if Nutt thinks Masoli helps the cause then he should get Masoli on campus.
But this is also only about winning college football games. If Nutt thinks that Masoli is of the mind to focus on helping his draft chances next year, Nutt should pass and let Masoli continue on to earlier reported destinations of La. Tech or even Mississippi State.
The 2010 season is a rebuilding one for Ole Miss, and pundits and fans alike are expecting a six to seven-win season in Oxford. If bringing in Masoli does not move the needle up on those numbers, then there is little need to take the risk.
While redemption for Masoli can be achieved by having a decent year on the field and staying out of trouble off it, for the school that signs him, vindication can only come from winning more games with Masoli than thought possible without him.
With the calendar sitting just a couple weeks before fall practice begins, that is hard to imagine.
Jeb Williamson covers Ole Miss Football as a Featured Columnist for the Bleacher Report. He welcomes and appreciates all comments. Click here to visit his profile page for other articles.