A race that looked like it was Randall Mackey's to win at the mid-way point looks much closer now and has the cloud of NCAA uncertainty hanging above.
Barry Brunetti had a good day Saturday in the Grove Bowl, and it wasn't his first good day. As spring training goes, you can often tell more by the scrimmages than you can in the actual spring game where it's often not taken quite as seriously.
For Ole Miss, teams were divided, which means offensive lines were split, and that's a big deal. Offensive coordinator David Lee gave Mackey a pass, to a degree, because he seemed to have lesser blocking than Brunetti.
Neither set the world on fire, but Brunetti got better as the day went on. The West Virginia transfer's conclusion that he'll be better in August when he has more familiarity with his surroundings than he did at the beginning of spring makes sense. He needs to make some improvement, starting with taking the center snap, which it appears is something the Rebels will do a lot in the coming year, not so much spread with the offense.
The question is will Brunetti be granted the hardship waiver by the NCAA?
There's the Zack Stoudt question too. He didn't even play in the game, and he brings a much different style as the true pocket passer. Stoudt was playing better at the end of spring before he was suspended for his academic issue.
When Mackey was signed he came with a reputation of athleticism and the ability to help the offense in other ways, most notably receiver.
Quarterback is the most important position on the field, and if Mackey is the best for the job, that's where he needs to be.
But if Brunetti is cleared, and he wins the job, Mackey can move to receiver and help out at a position that really needs help. Mackey has only been a quarterback at Ole Miss, but receiver was a secondary consideration when he was signed. Any position change requires a learning curve, but it's not hard to imagine a guy with Mackey's still level having success at receiver. The Ole Miss offense will not be at its best if Mackey is under-utilized.
If Lee determines that Stoudt is the best option at quarterback then I think you see two quarterbacks playing, the second being Mackey.
Mackey and Brunetti are so similar in style that there's no real change of pace when one enters over the other. If you cast your lot with a pocket guy in Stoudt, then bring in a runner, there's pressure on the defense.
If you're playing Stoudt and Mackey you can redshirt Brunetti and really set yourself up at the game's most important position for the next four years.
The only thing Ole Miss knows for sure about its quarterbacks at this point is that August will provide quite a competition.