Ole Miss Quarterback Competition: Who Will Win the Starting Job?
Around this time a year ago, the Ole Miss depth chart at quarterback was set.
Obviously, hyped with his own website (Need4Snead.com), Jevan Snead was the starter with redshirt freshman Nathan Stanley being the backup.
Also, Raymond Cotton had just arrived and was labeled as the future of the program by many.
Now, less than three weeks from the 2010 season opener, the depth chart looks completely different.
First, there is Bastrop, LA native Randall Mackey from East Mississippi Community College.
The 6’0" 190 pound JUCO All-American racked up over 3,700 yards of total offense and scored 37 touchdowns for the Lions in his sophomore year in Scooba.
Then, there’s Jeremiah Masoli. The former Oregon Duck, who led his team to the Rose Bowl, accounted for over 2,800 yards with 28 touchdowns against the Pac-10 last season.
Finally, Nathan Stanley is the only returning scholarship quarterback after Jevan Snead declared for the NFL Draft and Raymond Cotton transferred to South Alabama. The redshirt sophomore saw limited action for the Rebs in 2009 (11 of 23, 163 yards, 1 TD).
So, the question is: Who’s the favorite to take the snaps in 2010?
Houston Nutt stated after the press conference yesterday that if the season were today, Stanley would be the starter, noting his knowledge of the playbook.
However, it would be safe to assume that in three more weeks, Masoli will know far more of the playbook than he has in the past seven days.
Throughout the first days of camp, Dave Rader and staff ran through different option sets, veers, and option-read plays with the quarterbacks, indicating that there will be a different type of offense this fall other than a basic pro-set offense ran last season.
That kind of offense obviously points towards Masoli or Mackey being, at the very least, a productive role in the offense.
First Test: Scrimmage
Yesterday, the first test was on for the trio competing for the starting role in Vaught Hemingway Stadium with a team scrimmage in front of approximately 4,000 fans.
Nathan Stanley started the game at quarterback and completed 3 of 5 passes for 45 yards. Masoli entered the game next and was 6 of 12 for 102 yards and one touchdown, and Mackey entered the game last and was 5 of 11 for 39 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
When asked about the quarterback situation, Houston Nutt had praise for all three.
“I thought all three quarterbacks looked good," Nutt said. "They all do things a little different, but they all do things well. Nathan had a good read tonight and threw the ball well. Jeremiah gives you that ability to escape and can throw a 40-yard bullet. It wasn't Mackey’s best night, but he has been really accurate. I’m excited about our quarterback situation.”
With the first week of practice over, practices are now closed to the public and the media will have limited access as well.
It can be assumed this will be when the staff really works on what roles Masoli and Mackey will play while on the field. With both of their versatility, they could both line up on the field together at times.
Stanley has surprised everyone on how much he has improved since last year and even throughout the summer. His confidence seems to be at an all-time high.
Nutt has even stated at times that he was surprised that the quarterback chase is as close as it is, implying that Stanley has matured.
Mackey has come in as a junior college quarterback who was really the wild card of the group and hasn’t disappointed. He has been noted by several sources as being the most accurate of the three, he just needs to be more consistent.
His role has been predicted by many to being the "Wild Rebel QB," or at least having some kind of role within that formation. Could he get over 10 snaps a game and truly add the dual-threat Houston Nutt has wanted at that spot?
And then, there’s Jeremiah Masoli.
A guy who just arrived over a week ago has already dived into the playbook and is still learning. His grasp of the offense over the next several weeks could be pivotal in deciding whether he is ready to start against Jacksonville State or down the road.
In the end, it should be an exciting couple of weeks leading up to September 4 as the Rebels face off against Jacksonville State in Oxford.
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