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Reconsidering the Rebels

His Heisman days might be over, but Jeremiah Masoli will have a big impact at Ole Miss.

Is it time to rethink Mississippi’s chances in the SEC? The Rebels have been widely projected as — at best — a fifth-place team in the West division, due mainly to concerns revolving around how Ole Miss plans to replace its 12 lost starters. One position that has drawn the most scrutiny is quarterback: no more Jevan Snead, an unproven new starter, little depth. Now, with Jeremiah Masoli in the fold, Ole Miss is in significantly better shape under center. In case you’ve forgotten: Masoli, before shooting himself in the foot, was a heavy Heisman contender heading into his final season at Oregon. To say that he represents an upgrade over what Ole Miss previously had at quarterback would be an understatement.

As of week ago, this was Nathan Stanley’s team. The sophomore outplayed another youngster, Raymond Cotton, during the spring, though Cotton was limited due to a shoulder injury. Not that Stanley was not eventually going to earn significant playing time for the Rebels: in a perfect world, however, Stanley’s tenure as the starter would have begun in 2011, not 2010. Snead’s misguided decision to forgo his final season for the N.F.L. forced Mississippi’s hand.

Unfortunately, Stanley’s ascension to the starting role cost Ole Miss depth: Cotton recently opted to transfer, though the writing had been on the wall for the better part of the summer. As of last week, Ole Miss had only one scholarship quarterback on the roster — Stanley. It was to have two in place for fall practice, with JUCO transfer Randall Mackey joining Stanley.

Think about this for a moment. Prior to adding Masoli, Ole Miss was poised to enter the 2010 season with an unproven sophomore, albeit one with a bright future, and a JUCO transfer at quarterback. One rough hit, one misstep on a lineman’s leg, one tweaked knee during practice — anything that typically occurs during a college football season — and the Rebels were down to a walk-on at the most important position on the field.

Masoli’s arrival changes all that. It increases depth. Let’s assume that the Oregon transfer earns the starting role; I think that’s a relatively safe assumption. That pushes Stanley down to second-string, a role he played a season ago. He’s best-suited to serve in the spot. Stanley surely is the quarterback of the future, yes. But he’ll be far more effective with another year of experience under his belt; it will be good for his development not to be thrown to the wolves — though he could surprise — in 2010.

Mackey, the JUCO transfer, might see his role diminished. The consensus was that Mackey was a better athlete than Stanley, having more dual-threat ability than the sophomore. In that case, prior to brining in Masoli, Ole Miss was poised to use Mackey as an athletic, run-first, change of pace option alongside Stanley. Unfortunately, Mackey’s skill set greatly resembles Masoli’s; with Masoli the projected starter, Stanley would represent a change of pace, not Mackey.

Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s not a guarantee that Masoli lands the starting job for Ole Miss, though it would be a shock if he didn’t, to be honest. He’ll have to learn the play book, accustom himself to the system; develop a rapport with his offensive cohorts; and, most importantly, prove himself worthy of a leadership role. Masoli achieved the latter at Oregon — before getting kicked off the team, of course.

Nevertheless, if Ole Miss can tweak the offense to best fit his abilities, Masoli stands as a massive upgrade over both Stanley and Mackey. One factor overlooked in this scenario is the experience he brings to the table: just last season, for instance, Masoli led Oregon to a Pac-1o title and resulting Rose Bowl berth. Expecting similar results at Ole Miss is far too much to ask. Yet with his arrival, Mississippi has surely rebuilt the depth and talent level at quarterback. With that, one question mark becomes a potential area of strength.

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Comments

  1. 'Catatonic Tim says:

    Grad school might become the latest craze for all convicted felons!

  2. wildcat6 says:

    I live to see the words:

    Five and Five: No 42, Northwestern

    or

    Who, What, When: Northwestern

    Paul: As you know, the Five and Five posts now appear on The Quad. Try as I might, I can’t seem to find a day side editor willing to post the, oh, eight Five and Five posts currently sitting in the hopper. Northwestern is one of those, of course. If they’re not posted by the end of the day today I’ll consider just taking them back and putting them up here.

  3. wildcat6 says:

    Thanks Paul. I’ve been checking the Quad Blog hourly as well. We Northwestern fans are a vigilant bunch!

    Keep up the great work.

  4. wildcat6 says:

    Got ‘em! (5+5) Thanks for your persistence….

  5. Gotham Gator says:

    Interesting stuff. So, if you were to re-rank the Rebels with JM as their starter, where would you put them?

  6. John Lawrence says:

    How can Masoli play this year? I thought transfers had to sit a year.

    Paul: Thanks to an N.C.A.A. loophole, which allows graduated players to transfer to another school without a transfer penalty if the new school offers a graduate degree not available at the current school. If Ole Miss offers landscape management and Oregon doesn’t, and the player has already received his bachelor’s degree, he can transfer without penalty.

  7. M Meyer says:

    A little American criminal justice system/University of Oregon overreaction rant:

    After reading up on it a bit, Masoli’s ouster from Oregon seems a little extreme. Sure, you aren’t supposed to lie to cops, I get that. A full season suspension is a pretty extreme response, when there was no evidence to actually convict Masoli of a crime. Plea deals are b.s. Of course someone innocent will plead guilty to get probation and a misdemeanor when the alternative is a chance at a felony conviction and 2-3 years in prison. I’m sure we all think we would proclaim our innocence and damn the consequences, but that’s not a rational response. A felony conviction would have done worse than ruin his football career, it would have ruined his life. So of course his lawyer rightly advised him to take a deal that ensured no jail time and a misdemeanor. His guilt or innocence doesn’t matter. That’s how the criminal justice system works. The innocent and guilty alike take plea deals to avoid a chance at a much worse conviction.

    In addition, I’m just really tired of marijuana being treated like it’s a deadly sin, and a DUI is only a couple of games suspension. DUIs really put other people in danger, and football teams treat it like it’s no big deal. There ought to be zero tolerance. The drinking underage, public intox, minor scale fights are the sorts of things that should be subject to minor suspensions. Nobody gets killed in those situations. Marijuana should be treated the same as minor alcohol offenses.

    I honestly don’t know why Oregon took such an extreme response. Other schools have kept players who have committed much more serious real crimes involving domestic violence or worse. Masoli lied to the cops and had weed in his car. So, he’s not a great role model, and he should have been suspended for a couple of games, but he ought to still be the starting quarterback for the Ducks.

    Mississippi is really lucky to have him. They are getting a good leader on the football field and a very skilled quarterback. I’m glad that NCAA rules will let him play this season, because what Oregon did with him was uncalled for. Here’s hoping he leads the Ackbars to the top of the SEC West.

  8. [...] Masoli to Ole Miss: …if Ole Miss can tweak the offense to best fit his abilities, Masoli stands as a massive upgrade over both Stanley and Mackey. One factor overlooked in this scenario is the experience he brings to the table: just last season, for instance, Masoli led Oregon to a Pac-1o title and resulting Rose Bowl berth. Expecting similar results at Ole Miss is far too much to ask. Yet with his arrival, Mississippi has surely rebuilt the depth and talent level at quarterback. With that, one question mark becomes a potential area of strength. [...]

  9. Greg B. says:

    Great post M.Meyer. You write like a man with some insight, possibly defense counsel, and that is spoken with the highest degree of respect. Most Americans are clueless as to how draconian our criminal justice system really is, especially in the South.

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