The Ole Miss Rebels were not very successful on the field a year ago, as then head coach Houston Nutt was fired following a disappointing 2-10 record. New head coach Hugh Freeze is charged with trying to get the Rebels back to a respectable record in the SEC West, which some people consider the most challenging division in college football. One of the main weaknesses of Ole Miss last year was at quarterback, where three players started games for the Rebels. None of the quarterbacks was able to perform consistently enough for the team to be successful, as Ole Miss quarterbacks combined to complete only 49.5 percent of their passes for 1,820 yards with nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions. In fact, the Rebels’ passing attack was ranked 107th out of 120 teams a season ago.
The battle for the starting quarterback job will continue into the summer, but many feel that it is incoming junior college transfer Bo Wallace’s job to lose. The 6-5, 210 pounder out of East Mississippi CC was the junior college national player of the year in 2011, throwing for 4,604 yards while leading his team to the junior college national championship. He also has previous experience playing under Freeze, as he redshirted under Freeze while a freshman at Arkansas St. While he is unproven at the SEC level, Wallace’s level of production and poise may be hard for the Ole Miss coaches to ignore. One of his main challengers will be Barry Brunetti, a transfer from West Virginia who started two games for the Rebels a season ago. The former star recruit out of Memphis appeared in only four games last year, completing 54.3 percent of his passes for 144 yards, while adding 110 yards on the ground. According to reports, Brunetti performed well in spring practices, and closed the gap with Wallace in the process. The third man in the mix was going to be junior Zach Stoudt, but the four-game starter from 2011 left the team during June. The battle for the No. 3 spot will now come down to junior Robert Ratliff and freshman Maikhail Miller. Interestingly enough, the player who started the most games behind center a year ago, Randall Mackey, was switched over to wide receiver by Freeze and his coaching staff. Mackey rushed for 180 yards a year ago, and Freeze will try and utilize that speed and athleticism on the outside. Mackey will also still be available as an emergency quarterback. But it seems clear that the new coaching staff was not satisfied with his play at quarterback a season ago.
The Rebels seem to need to improve on many areas of the field, but the need for improved play at quarterback would appear to be at the top of the list. It is likely that either Wallace or Brunetti will outplay last season’s pedestrian numbers, as Freeze has gotten good play from his quarterbacks in the past. The level of improvement will remain uncertain until Freeze decides who is going to be lining up behind center.
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