By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Given the recent run of success the Ole Miss compliance office has had with the NCAA – Jeremiah Masoli, Kentrell Lockett and now Barry Brunetti – the school may want to entice compliance head David Wells to delay his retirement.
Masoli was granted last September a waiver of the NCAA’s residency rule for transfers, though it took an appeal of the original decision to make it happen.
Earlier this month, Lockett was granted a sixth season of eligibility after last year’s season-ending knee injury.
Monday came the word that Brunetti, who transferred from West Virginia, was granted the same waiver request as Masoli but with less duress, the announcement actually coming a bit sooner than expected.
Last year the Rebels needed Masoli. Some might say they didn’t need Masoli’s baggage, but they needed help at quarterback following the surprise departure of redshirt freshman Raymond Cotton during the summer.
A different situation
This year, the presence of Brunetti, who has a redshirt year to burn if necessary, is important, but it’s far different from the Masoli scenario.
The Brunetti decision gives Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt three scholarship quarterbacks rather than two, and it gives him a major player in the competition alongside Randall Mackey and Zack Stoudt in August.
Mackey took an early lead in the spring QB race, but Brunetti and Stoudt closed well at the end of drills. Nutt says going into August that Mackey is ahead of the pack, though only slightly.
Stoudt will have to work harder to win this job. He’ll have to be very, very good at what he does – which is stand in the pocket and complete passes – because he doesn’t have the scrambling ability that the head coach prefers.
Nutt says he wants a quarterback who can get out of trouble and extend a play. You don’t have to be a scrambler to do that, but you have to be able to “feel” pressure, then sidestep it and keep your eyes downfield.
The question is what happens with Mackey, a highly skilled athlete, if Brunetti, a sophomore, wins the job.
When Masoli dropped in, Mackey, a junior college All-American at East Mississippi CC, was redshirted last year. He has two years to play, and the clock is ticking.
So with Brunetti officially in the fold, Nutt has what every coach wants – options.
When he was signed, Mackey was billed as an athlete who could play another position if necessary. If Brunetti wins the job, Mackey could move to receiver to add skill and depth to an area that needs help.
He would still be available for use as the “Wild Rebel,” and it wouldn’t take much for him to transition back to quarterback if the need arose.
If Brunetti is your starter, and Mackey goes unused, there’s a malpractice case to be had.
If Mackey is the starter, Nutt can redshirt Brunetti and set himself up with a dual-threat quarterback – the style he prefers – for the next four years.
There’s no significant experience for any of the quarterback candidates, but there’s ability for each one.
The NCAA announcement leaves Nutt with a lot to consider, and leaves Wells on a bit of a winning streak, some good fortune that basketball coach Andy Kennedy will want in his corner.
He has his own NCAA waiver request case coming up with Murphy Holloway.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.