Check out the position battles at any college football program, and almost without fail, you will find the players talking of supporting one another while trying to win the job, often talking about their friendships.
Barry Brunetti may have become the Ole Miss starting quarterback anyway, but after two scrimmages and no clear leader in the race, Brunetti ascended to the top Tuesday after news of Randall Mackey’s arrest.
For Brunetti, winning the starting job – though Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt says Zack Stoudt will also play in the opener against BYU – was bittersweet.
“It’s kind of exciting, but at the same time it’s kind of sad,” he said. “Mackey’s like my best friend here.”
When a player has been prepared for this moment with his climb through other levels, groomed to be a starting quarterback on his college team, only to lose out in the competition, it’s got to be tough to reign in the emotions. It’s not easy to accept a lesser role.
Brunetti said he spoke with Mackey on Tuesday following the arrest and that Mackey’s was upbeat.
“Smiling like Randall. The same thing. It wasn’t different,” Brunetti said.
They didn’t talk much about the arrest, Brunetti said. “Yesterday’s in the past, so we forgot about it.”
Well, that’s good and bad. It’s important to refocus and move forward. It’s also important to consider the past to avoid repeating it.
It remains to be seen how the arrest affects Mackey in the long term. In the short term it’s likely to include a run with the scout team. He won’t get the same reps as Brunetti and Stoudt, who will be preparing to play against BYU.
Mackey’s chances to become the starting quarterback this year will also depend on what Brunetti and Stoudt get done on game day. If they’re productive, there’s no reason to tinker with things.
Ultimately there will be a role for Mackey. It will be interesting to see what that becomes.