New Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli knows this is his last chance.
Masoli met with reporters Monday for the first time since joining the Rebels late last week and made clear he understands the remainder of his college career hangs on his ability to stay out of trouble.
“I was just happy to have that opportunity and to get this chance, and thankful to Ole Miss, the athletics director and the chancellor for giving me my last chance,” Masoli told reporters during media day. “I understand that and I’m determined to do everything with it.”
The former Oregon player was once thought to be a Heisman Trophy candidate, but he fumbled that away after two brushes with the law led to his dismissal. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt brought Masoli in under a zero-tolerance contract after the departure of backup Raymond Cotton on the eve of preseason practice left the Rebels with just two scholarship quarterbacks.
Masoli said he had inquiries from about six Football Bowl Subdivision schools, but that Nutt sold him on Ole Miss.
“Coach Nutt is the main reason I came here, first and foremost,” Masoli said. “Just him as a person, that’s what really caught my attention. I could hear the genuineness in his voice. There’s just something about him that made me feel comfortable.”
How quickly Masoli can become comfortable with his new teammates and playbook will likely determine how much he’ll play.
Masoli was a two-year starter at Oregon who last season led the Ducks to their first Pac-10 title since 2001 and their first Rose Bowl since 1995. He was a dual threat in 2009, passing for 15 touchdowns and rushing for another 13.
By the time he spoke with reporters, he had practiced just once. But Nutt liked what he saw in Masoli’s presence.
“You’re talking about a brand new playbook, brand new terminology, brand new snap count — didn’t phase him,” Nutt said. “It didn’t phase him at all. He steps right in the huddle, commands respect, talks with authority. You could see how smooth he was with his ball-handling skills and taking a brand new playbook. He jumped right in and you could tell that he’s played in the Rose Bowl.”
Masoli’s new teammates say they are excited about his arrival too.
The Rebels, who lost then-junior quarterback Jevan Snead to the NFL after last season, were picked to finish at or near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference Western .
That was before Masoli joined the group.
“You have a Heisman-caliber quarterback, a Rose Bowl quarterback, so he’s been at that top level of competition,” defensive end Kentrell Lockett said. “He can bring that poise and attitude to our team, something that we might need when we’re in big-time games against LSU and Alabama.”
Stanley, who expected to be in a battle for the starting job anyway, said he supported bringing in Masoli when Nutt first told him about the possibility.
“I’m interested in doing what’s best for the team,” Stanley said. “We were thin at quarterback and bringing him in is definitely going to help us out at quarterback.”
That doesn’t mean Stanley’s stepping aside.
“I’m going to keep continuing to do what I do and what I’ve done the last two years,” Stanley said. “Whatever happens happens.”
Read more in Tuesday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.
Chris Talbott/The Associated Press