By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – If there was a common theme to Houston Nutt’s address at SEC Media Days, it was turnovers.
Whether talking about his quarterback competition or expressing excitement for his new coaching staff, there was always a secondary message.
“We always want to run the football, but want to have a very confident passing game,” Nutt said. “We want to throw it to our guys and be consistent in taking care of the football.”
Nutt officially welcomes his newcomers on Thursday. Veterans sign in Friday, and practice begins Saturday.
With a turnover ratio of minus-.50, the Rebels were last in the SEC and 88th in the country in 2010.
In SEC play the Rebels finished on the plus side of the turnover margin just twice, plus-1 against Mississippi State and plus-3 against Kentucky, a 42-35 victory for their only conference win.
Ole Miss fumbled 17 times, losing 10, a slightly better ratio than its opponents, who fumbled 18 times and lost 12.
The larger problem was interceptions, 14 in all. Starter Jeremiah Masoli threw 13 and Nathan Stanley one. Masoli also threw 14 touchdown passes.
Ole Miss was minus-3 in turnover ratio after five games then showed some improvement by playing even in its next three games.
With three games left and clinging to hopes of six wins and bowl-eligibility, the Rebels were minus-6 in losses at Tennessee and LSU.
In Knoxville, Masoli played following a week of uncertainty over his health and threw four interceptions. He had sustained a concussion the previous week against Louisiana-Lafayette. Stanley also was picked off against the Vols.
It’s not surprising that turnovers will be a preseason focus, particularly among the players who pass the football.
Nutt says he hopes to have a three-man race sorted out before the middle of camp.
“We’ll pick one real soon once we get into camp,” he said.
The leading candidates are Barry Brunetti and Randall Mackey, known scramblers, and Zack Stoudt, a pocket passer. All three are transfers.
Brunetti has the most experience. He appeared in four games at West Virginia last season in which he completed 4-of-9 passes and rushed once for 4 yards.
“I think we have a good situation,” Nutt said. “We just have to find out who’s going to stay from the problems, the disasters, and who’s going to take care of the ball and put this team in the end zone consistently.”