Freeze: Buchanan’s lead in QB race remains firm but small

Hugh Freeze named Ryan Buchanan his quarterback leader after the Grove Bowl.

Because he so emphatically stressed that Buchanan’s “lead” was miniscule it was almost as though he was having second thoughts about publicly naming a leader in the competition.

He wasn’t.

I visited with Freeze for a few minutes prior to his speaking time at the Rebel Road Trip stop in Tupelo Tuesday and asked him if he wished he’d kept a lid on the competition and not named a leader.

“No, that’s what I said. I don’t think it’s been taken out of proportion. If you look at the totality of the 15 practices that’s pretty accurate. We charted every practice, every possession, every throw, every MA (missed assignment). I think he has a very small lead, and the reason I say that … there’s still a lot of time between now and then,” Freeze said.

Indeed, there is a lot of time between now and then.

Ryan Buchanan

Ryan Buchanan (Ole Miss photo Joshua McCoy)

Also in that post-Grove Bowl presser Freeze talked about the need for his players to make right decisions in the off-season.

Making right decisions doesn’t only mean staying out of trouble. Those decisions will include gathering the troops for voluntary work and demonstrating leadership.

Freeze also noted Buchanan’s time in the system relative to Kelly’s.

“He’s had two years in this system where Chad Kelly’s had not even a semester because we couldn’t coach him till the start of spring ball. I’ll be curious to see (the competition) in the off-season and coming into fall camp because Chad proved he had a good football IQ, and of course (DeVante) Kincade adds another dimension. I thought he had a good spring game. I thought he closed the gap. I would have said the gap was a little bigger before the spring game with Ryan and DeVante so …”

Time in the program has always been what Buchanan has had to offer. I have contended that if he had truly impressed Freeze with that time already that Freeze might have been less inclined to pursue a junior college quarterback who had made questionable off-field decisions at previous career stops.

Personally, I don’t think behavior becomes an issue for Kelly at Ole Miss.

As Freeze points out, the race is very close. Kelly is very much in the thick of things. He may not be the starter at this point, but his presence has at least increased competition at the position. That’s what all coaches want.

Chad Kelly

Chad Kelly (Ole Miss photo Joshua McCoy)

Competition increases awareness and makes good players better. That may be what’s playing out here.

So, the hay’s in the barn for spring. Off-season is here, and Buchanan has the lead in the quarterback competition. It’s a small lead, but it’s a lead. The lead may change hands, or it may not.

“I think that’s an accurate statement that he has a lead, but it is so small,” Freeze said. “There are a lot of things that have to be done between now and fall camp that matter besides just throwing a ball. I want to see who the best leader is, who can represent us the right way. I’m never presumptuous enough to say that something couldn’t change my opinion.”

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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