Email, Facebook, Twitter, texting on your cell phone. Lots of ways to send messages in the age of communication.
It appears Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt is sending one to Nathan Stanley by simply saying or doing nothing – and it can’t be a very good message.
This is a guy who, if not for the unusual circumstances of the summer that included the sudden transfer of Jeremiah Masoli, would have been your starting quarterback.
Indeed, with the week being what it was, the uncertainty regarding Masoli’s status following last week’s concussion against Louisiana-Lafayette, Stanley was prepared as though he’d be the starter against Tennessee.
Not only did he not start, he couldn’t get in the game when it was 38-14, and his competitor had thrown two interceptions returned for touchdowns.
Finally, after three picks and a 45-14 deficit, Stanley entered the game.
It would seem that if a guy was that close to being your starter, you might have a package for him, a couple of plays not on your game film that might allow him to help you.
It doesn’t speak to much confidence in Stanley on the part of Nutt. That’s unfortunate, because Nathan Stanley, if he returns, will approach the 2011 season much like he did 2010 – as the most experienced quarterback on the roster.
That level of experience is quite meager, however.
Nutt has not worked Stanley into games this year. Beyond the season opener against Jacksonville State, in which he was 6 for 10 with three touchdown passes, Stanley’s first meaningful playing time was last week after Masoli’s concussion.
He looked understandably rusty.
Last week’s rust hadn’t worn off when Stanley entered with 7 minutes, 19 seconds left in the third quarter.
Before he completed a long fourth-down pass to Melvin Harris, which was overturned by Harris’ pass interference call, he was sacked while holding the ball too long in the pocket and fumbled a shotgun snap, which he promptly recovered.
In his playing time the last two weeks, Stanley hasn’t done anything to strongly state a case for more snaps. The situations haven’t been good. It was a weak opponent last week, a big deficit Saturday when the game had been decided.
But when your number’s called, you have to make plays. As a player, that’s how you send your message.
Nutt’s message to Stanley may simply be about preference. He wants a guy who can put pressure on a defense with his feet. That’s not Stanley’s game. It is Randall Mackey’s game, the junior college transfer who is sitting out this season as a redshirt, and that’s why Stanley, as the most experienced quarterback with 2011 eligibility, won’t be a lock to win job.
Nutt will look long and hard at Mackey’s dual-threat capabilities. In Nutt’s estimation, Stanley didn’t do enough to finish a 45-14 game.
Like it or not, this is about what a coach wants in his offense, and you have to give your $2.5 million employee a lot of leeway.
Nutt went 18-8 and won two Cotton Bowls in his first two seasons. Now it’s up to him to return the program to a competitive level.
If he doesn’t, the time may come that he gets disturbing messages from the administration.
Parrish Alford covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PARRISH ALFORD / NEMS Daily Journal