OXFORD – As Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt heads into what he believes will be a strong finish to recruiting, he keeps an eye on spring drills as well.
Nutt expects junior quarterback Jevan Snead to return and be part of those spring drills.
Snead was at one time projected as a first-round draft pick in 2010 by some analysts as the No. 1 player selected.
Over the course of the Rebels’ 9-4 season Snead threw 20 touchdown passes but also threw 20 interceptions. He was non-committal on his future plans during Cotton Bowl week and immediately after the game.
In early November draft analyst Mike Detillier, who had previously projected Snead as the No. 1 pick, still had him as a late-first or early-second round choice if he applies for the draft. Some speculate he now may have fallen to the third or fourth rounds.
Nutt says Snead will get “the first snap” in the spring, but there will be competition for the starting job. That really wasn’t the case as Snead left the 2009 Cotton Bowl and headed toward the 2009 regular season.
“One thing Jevan will know is that he has real competition. Nathan Stanley and Raymond Cotton are coming. Jevan will have to be better than he was this year, and he understands that.”
All quarterbacks will be protected less and face physical contact more.
“We will put more pressure on them, more live contact, especially on third down and in team pass situations, to see who handles it best,” Nutt said.
Stanley, a rising third-year sophomore, played sparingly in 2009 and only when games had been decided until he replaced Snead in the Cotton Bowl.
Cotton was redshirted and did not play in 2009.
The Rebels are also expected to sign Randall Mackey, one of the nation’s top dual threat junior college quarterbacks, but Mackey will not enroll in time for spring drills.
Don’t say the ‘R’ word
While the starter may return at quarterback, Ole Miss will lose at least one major playmaker from every remaining position on both offense and defense except at defensive tackle.
The departing senior class has helped Nutt go 18-8, 9-7 in the SEC, in his first two seasons at Ole Miss.
Gone for 2010 will be the SEC’s leading receiver in Shay Hodge and arguably its best offensive player in tailback Dexter McCluster.
Defensive losses include three of the top four ends, linebacker Patrick Trahan, free safety Kendrick Lewis and both cornerbacks.
The Rebels are coming off back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time since 1961-1962, but Nutt is reluctant to call 2010 a rebuilding season.
“I don’t like to use that word because it gives our players a different mindset. They say, ‘oh we’re rebuilding, let’s take the year off and relax.’ We’re going to be rebuilding in a lot of areas, but I expect us to keep taking off,” he said.
Key in that continued growth was an extra 20-plus workouts – many of which focused on the younger players – because of the bowl game.
Nutt cited a number of young players who stood out in bowl practice, cornerback Charles Sawyer, linebacker Mike Marry and wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan among them.
“Coach (Don) Decker is going to wear them out getting them bigger, stronger and faster, and then we have to take advantage of every practice rep in spring ball,” Nutt said.
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal