By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
Taken from its launch last spring, the Ole Miss quarterbacks race has had more turns than Talladega, more drama than TNT.
Since the 2010 season ended we have seen:
* The signing of Zack Stoudt from Iowa Western Community College.
* The transfer of Barry Brunetti and a subsequent waiver from the NCAA, allowing him immediate eligibility.
* A four-man race in the spring.
* The departure of Nathan Stanley.
* A fast start to spring by Randall Mackey.
* A spring game suspension for Stoudt.
* A fast finish to spring by Brunetti.
* A summertime lead for Brunetti.
* An August race too close to call until Mackey’s disorderly conduct arrest.
* A season-opening start for Brunetti.
Through the fog Stoudt, the truest pocket passer in the group, has emerged as the Week 2 starter. The Rebels kick off Saturday at 5 against FCS foe Southern Illinois.
The stars may be aligning for having Stoudt at the wheel for a number of reasons, first and foremost his effort Saturday in a 14-13 loss against BYU.
His debut will be forever marked by the fumble that resulted in a short touchdown run by blitzing defensive back Kyle Van Noy, who made the hit.
Beyond the tragic finish, Stoudt did a lot of good things. He hit open receivers downfield, showed poise in the pocket and threw the ball away when plays weren’t there.
The Rebels’ dreadful turnover margin in recent seasons has been a product of interceptions thrown – 50 over the last three years.
No doubt that’s the figure Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt had in mind when he said his ideal quarterback would be the one who “stays away from disasters.”
Stoudt threw no interceptions in 25 attempts against BYU, but the sack-fumble was a disaster Nutt probably wasn’t thinking about – a creative method of defeat for a team that must re-learn how to win.
Stoudt also has the intangibles going for him right now, including the confidence of his teammates.
Now, the running game is in chaos. Star tailback Brandon Bolden is out indefinitely, his backup Enrique Davis questionable for this week. Three players have been moved to running back from other positions.
It makes sense that Nutt would turn to Stoudt, who gives the Rebels the best chance to involve the receivers, which is where most of their young talent resides.
Mackey is back in the mix, too, after a one-game suspension. A junior college transfer who redshirted last year, he’s been in the program longer than the other two and is the only one yet to play in a game.
With the uncertainty around the run game, Mackey would seem a natural fit for the Wild Rebel, a true change-of-pace runner who can pass with accuracy from the position.
Mackey and Brunetti may play, but Stoudt is in the driver’s seat with a chance to mash the gas and reach the finish in this interesting race.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at NEMS360.com.