Published on July 2nd, 2015 | by Carver Rayburn0
Rebels Slipstream to Find a Starting Quarterback a Slow and Steady Process
Ole Miss Head Coach Hugh Freeze and his Band of Rebels are gaining national respect from sports publications. Athlon Sports, A Premier Sports Publication, has the Rebels ranked No. 11 in their pre-season guide. In fact, the magazine has four Ole Miss players listed as first team All-Americans in Laquon Treadwell, Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche, and Tony Conner. All juniors by the way.
Other media outlets have the Rebels ranked even higher. ESPN has Ole Miss at No. 8 in FPI headed into this season. The Bleacher Report has The University of Mississippi at No. 12 and it seems The Landsharks will be a consensus Top 15 team come September.
With all that talent returning, Ole Miss is still predicted to finish third in the brutal SEC West behind Auburn and Alabama. That school beneath us: 7th, which really means nothing at this point, but it is worth pointing out that Dan Mullen still hasn’t slept. #31-17.
“Yeah, it sucks,” Mullen said after the 2014 Egg Bowl. “I won’t be able to sleep for freakin’ 365 days.”
Then this happened (photo right). After the game.
Enough of that, back to the 2015 Flagship.
The main question yet to be answered is the quarterback situation and running game. Who will step up?
Kincade gives Ole Miss an option under center with a dual threat. He can beat you with his feet and his arm. He throws well on the run and has the ability to turn a busted play into a big play. The Dallas native saw action in eight games last year as a freshman and completed 80 percent of his passes for 127 yards and a score. He also rushed 28 times for 95 yards and a touchdown.
The good thing about Kincade is he gives opposing defenses plenty to think about. Defend the pass? Defend the running back or contain the speedster before he scrambles for a big play.
A Jackson Prep product, Buchanan is known for his poise in the pocket behind center. In limited action as a back-up to 2014 starter Bo Wallace, Buchanan went 12 for 22 for 75 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception. In the annual Grove Bowl, the sophomore completed just five of 16 passes for 49 yards and an interception. It’s difficult to tell if Buchanan is still learning the system or if the defense is just that good.
“I feel like I really improved since the start of camp,” Buchanan said after the Grove Bowl. “Like I have said from the beginning, being behind Bo, you don’t get as many of the first-team reps and don’t go against the first-team defense. This spring, we had a chance to do that, and gradually I feel like I improved with my decision-making.”
The nephew of NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly signed with Ole Miss after stints at Clemson and EMCC. He has had a troubled off-the-field past, but the four-star prospect is expected to give Ole Miss an accurate and strong arm.
Of course, having a slew of wide receivers like Laquon Treadwell, Damore’a Strigfellow, Cody Core, Quincy Adeboyejo, and Markell Pack could make any signal caller look like Eli Manning.
All Kelly did at Scooba Tech was throw for 3900 yards, 47 touchdowns, and complete 67 percent of his passes en route to a National Championship. Can he compete in the SEC against the nation’s best teams? Only time will tell.
In the Grove Bowl, Kelly led all quarterbacks statistically with 104 yards and a touchdown, but only completed 47 percent of his passes; Freeze seemed pleased with his growth.
“He has probably grown more as a person than as a player,” Freeze said. “He had really good football IQ. He understands the game. Now, our stuff is brand new to him, so that is an adjustment period. He has been here a semester now. On that last play Kelly made at the end, I saw the call, and in his mind I understand why. We were in a 3-by-1 set and he totally thought that the route that was called was to the left side and it was really to the right side. Those are just some of the things that he will get adjusted to the more he learns our system. There is a transition period and I think that it is still ongoing in regards to football. I have been really pleased with how he has handled himself off-field, socially, academically and the decision-making process he has been choosing.”
Freeze has yet to name a starter, but sources are saying Kelly will get the nod.
“If they are as close as they are now, I could see us going a couple games making sure we have done due diligence in naming a starter,” Freeze said. “But, I do not want to do it beyond that or even if that. It wouldn’t shock me to go into week one planning to give them all reps to look at how they do when the lights come on. We won’t go too long like that. I don’t mind playing a couple, but you need to have a guy that is your guy when the time comes.”
Hopefully, Freeze and company can find the right guy for the Rebels to call the signals prior to the the beginning of the 2015 season. A three-headed quarterback scenario is not something that will benefit Ole Miss Football.
This article was printed in The Local Voice #232 (published June 25, 2015).
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