Reconsidering the Rebels
By Paul Myerberg // Jul 29, 2010
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.
Tags: Jeremiah Masoli, Mississippi, Nathan Stanley
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