OXFORD – For all the versatility attached to Randall Mackey’s name, the multitude of ways in which Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt might use his talented junior college transfer, Mackey’s early days in camp have been overwhelmingly singular.
He’s a quarterback.
In the spring and summer, back when the original plan was in place and the emphasis was on quarterbacks who had been in the system, Nathan Stanley and Raymond Cotton, Nutt talked about the possibility of using Mackey at wide receiver.
Cotton’s departure and the coming of former Oregon starter Jeremiah Masoli changed things.
Stanley, a third-year sophomore, is still running with the first team, but the snaps behind him are more evenly divided between Masoli and Mackey.
Four days into camp, Mackey has been a full-time quarterback and hasn’t seen a single play at receiver or another position.
“Right now, I’m not really worried about that. He’s got a lot going on right now, and I want him to just concentrate on quarterback,” Nutt said.
Not that moving Mackey around hasn’t been discussed, even after Masoli, who was 20-6 as a two-year starter at Oregon, announced he would walk on at Ole Miss for his final season of college eligibility.
There are similarities and differences in Masoli and Mackey. They both offer the threat of the run which makes quarterbacks more difficult to defend.
Masoli rushed for 668 yards and 13 touchdowns last year, 1,386 yards and 23 touchdowns for his college career.
Masoli is listed at 5-foot-11, Mackey at an even 6-foot. But Masoli is bulked up at 220 pounds, while Mackey weighs in at 190.
Oregon’s official athletics website describes Masoli as playing quarterback with a linebacker mentality.
Speed is Mackey’s game, but his time at EMCC was not about taking off on the run. He led the juco nation last year with 3,122 passing yards and a 69.5 completion percentage.
What are they thinking?
It’s possible to play two quarterbacks in a game, difficult to play three. Mackey’s athleticism may make him the better candidate for change, so what is the staff thinking?
Earlier this month, after Masoli announced for Ole Miss, quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Dave Rader told the Daily Journal: “Boy, we’ve gone round and round with that one. We see the very real possibility of him lining up at more than one position.”
Both Masoli and Mackey are learning a new system and new terminology. Mackey, a junior college All-American at East Mississippi last year, arrived in late June and has a little bit of a head start.
In the early work – full pads go on today for the first time – Nutt has praised Mackey’s quick release and accuracy.
Mackey is not only learning a new offense. He’s learning a basic skill that many quarterbacks take for granted by the time the reach college ball – the snap from center.
Neither in his high school career in Bastrop, La., just a few miles from the Arkansas line, nor his junior college days did he line up under center.
“Never. This is my first time doing it,” he said.
He feels he’s meeting the challenge of the exchange and learning where to place his eyes. For a 6-foot quarterback that means making a concerted effort to lift your head and look up.
He understands he may be asked to do other things.
“We ain’t been talking about receiver much. I’ve just been playing quarterback and trying to learn the offense and getting everything going,” Mackey said.
There’s no guessing to what position he wants to play. Asked if his preference was quarterback, the soft-spoken Mackey responds, “You could say that.
“I’ll play other positions if I need to, but right now I’m a quarterback.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or email@example.com.
Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal