Just five months ago, the college football world was abuzz regarding the introduction of troubled quarterback Jeremiah Masoli into the Ole Miss football program. The 5'11'', 220-pound former Oregon star stirred-up conversations of ethics, morals and second-chances throughout college football nation.
After his dismissal by Chip Kelly in Eugene, Masoli pondered a season with out football. Working the NCAA, he found his way into a graduate program in Oxford, making him immediately available to play.
Houston Nutt was heavily scrutinized for opening his arms to the troubled former Heisman candidate.
Prior to the arrival of Masoli, sophomore Nathan Stanley had been named the starting quarterback. Stanley was the potential long-term solution and Masoli was nearly a stop-gape with his one year of eligibility remaining.
Placing Masoli immediately into a leadership role with the Rebels was a decision that Nutt should have second-guessed. The Ole Miss coach showed his team, fan base and administration that he isn't too concerned with the the potential results from his unpredictable actions.
The season began with unknown expectations and quickly declined to very little expectations early in the September. Setting the tone for the season, Jacksonville State ripped the hearts out of the Rebels with a 49-48 double-overtime victory in Oxford.
The lone conference victory of the season came at home against Kentucky in early October. Under the leadership of Nutt and Masoli, they recorded unimpressive wins against Tulane, Fresno State and Louisiana-Lafayette.
In hindsight, the Rebels head coach risked his neck and the integrity of his program for a total of four wins. Nutt's squad finished at 4-8 and 1-7 in conference play.
Entering his third year as a starting collegiate quarterback, the senior quarterback ran for over 500 yards, threw for over 2,000 passing yards and accounted for 20 total touchdowns for the Rebels. He also threw 13 interceptions on the year.
Looking forward, the future under center for the Rebels will be Stanley, Randall Mackey or junior college newcomer Zach Stoudt.
The offensive will most likely improve with the departure of Masoli. The offensive line has shown their potential, and running back Brandon Bolden proved his ability to run and catch the ball out of the backfield.
If the 2011 squad can keep Nutt off the hot seat, it will begin with the defense. The secondary gave up big plays and looked consistently lost. The Rebel defense was last in the SEC in points per game allowed and 11th in total defense.
After a wasted season with Masoli, the team will look to break in a new quarterback during a very difficult five-game stretch to begin next season.
The Rebels will travel to meet Fresno State and host both Georgia and BYU before the middle of October. To be considered a success, they will need to reach a quality bowl game in 2011.
After 9-4 campaigns in both 2008 and 2009, Nutt will look to erase the Masoli era with an unexpected successful run of victories next year.