By Staff and wire reports
OXFORD — Ole Miss’ three-man quarterback race has been settled, though the circumstances that led to coach Houston Nutt’s decision certainly aren’t what he had in mind.
Nutt announced sophomore Barry Brunetti will start the season-opener against BYU on Sept. 3 following junior Randall Mackey’s arrest for disorderly conduct after a fight at a downtown Oxford bar early Tuesday morning.
Nutt said Mackey would be suspended for the BYU game. Mackey wasn’t at Tuesday’s practice because of what Nutt called a class conflict.
“I’ve had better days,” said a noticeably irritated Nutt. “Obviously, (Mackey) made a bad decision.”
The arrest brought an abrupt end to a three-way quarterback battle that’s been the talk of preseason camp. Brunetti, Mackey and junior Zack Stoudt had competed for over two weeks for the starting job, with no one making an obvious move to the forefront. Though Brunetti will start, Nutt said Stoudt will play against BYU as well.
Nutt said Mackey wouldn’t get many repetitions when he returns to practice and would have to earn his way back onto the field.
“They all have strengths,” Nutt said. “We’re not afraid to put any of them in the game.”
According to the police report, Mackey was at The Lyric Theater when police officers attempted to break up a “large fight.” That’s when police say Mackey came forward and hit officer Hildon Sessums on the lip, though Mackey insists “he was pushed” into the officer.
Oxford chief of police Mike Martin told The Associated Press on Tuesday that officers did not feel Mackey purposely hit Sessums; if they had, more serious charges would have been filed.
Records at the Lafayette County Detention Center show Mackey was arrested at 12:26 a.m. Tuesday morning and charged with disorderly failure to comply, a misdemeanor. He was released on a cash bond at about 9 a.m.
Mackey’s arrest came on the Rebels’ first day off since preseason practice began Aug. 6.
Nutt said Mackey wasn’t “drunk and obnoxious,” but was out after the team’s 11:30 p.m. curfew.
“We had a great camp, we had an excellent camp,” Nutt said. “But that’s not how you celebrate camp.”
Mackey’s arrest is a distraction the Rebels certainly didn’t need less than two weeks from their season opener.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder redshirted last season after being named an All-American at East Mississippi Community College in 2009, throwing for 3,122 yards and 32 touchdowns during his sophomore season.
Mackey had several impressive practices during preseason camp, but Nutt and offensive coordinator David Lee had been coy about naming a favorite until Tuesday.
Brunetti is the only one of the three quarterbacks with Football Bowl Subdivision experience. The 6-foot, 215-pounder played sparingly for West Virginia as a backup last season, completing 4 of 9 passes in two games. He transferred to Ole Miss over the winter, and the NCAA ruled he was eligible to play immediately because of a family hardship that required him to be closer to his hometown of Memphis.
Now, he’s the Rebels’ starter.
“It’s kind of exciting, but at the same time it’s kind of sad, because Mackey’s like my best friend here,” Brunetti said. “I’ve just got to prepare, take each day one step at a time.”
Stoudt is the only pro-style quarterback of the bunch. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, he has the ideal height for the position and a strong arm, but he’s struggled with accuracy during the preseason.
Mackey’s initial court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 14.
This is the second arrest of an Ole Miss football player in four days. Junior tight end Jamal Mosley was arrested on Saturday and charged with public drunkenness.