OXFORD – Blowing up the playbook in August can sometimes have its benefits.
The recent announcement that former Oregeon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli will attend Ole Miss could open other possibilities – perhaps “reopen” is the better term – for junior college transfer Randall Mackey.
A 6-foot, 190-pound athlete, Mackey was a two-time junior college All-American quarterback at East Mississippi where he led the nation with 3,122 passing yards and a 69.5 completion percentage and finished second with 32 touchdown passes last season.
He also rushed for 579 yards and five scores.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt had indicated a desire to use Mackey at wide receiver some, a plan that may have been reeled in when the departure of Raymond Cotton left Ole Miss with only two scholarship quarterbacks.
With Masoli’s addition, Mackey’s multiplicity is back on the table.
One question facing the offensive staff is how much receiver Mackey will play?
“Boy, we’ve gone round and round with that one,” says Dave Rader, beginning his first season as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. “We see the very real possibility of him lining up at more than one position.”
How many might that be?
“Oh, I don’t know, but its safe to say more than one.”
Masoli won’t be anointed the starter in advance as junior college transfer Brent Schaeffer was in 2006. Nutt says there will be a competition and that Mackey and spring starter Nathan Stanley are “great young men” who have been very supportive of the move to bring Masoli on board.
“They are class guys who are strongly competitive,” Rader said.
Rader doesn’t rule out the possibility of playing two quarterbacks but said that hasn’t been discussed in staff meetings to date.
Clearly, the threat of any quarterback on the run takes attention away from the running backs and sets up the play-action passing game Nutt favors.
Running is more a strength of Masoli and Mackey.
Stanley, who played high school ball in Tahlequah, Okla., roughly an hour from where Rader was in private business in his native Tulsa, is more of a drop-back passer with a strong arm and good vision.
In the spring Nutt emphasized improvement in decision-making with Stanley.
Poor decisions can lead to turnovers, and Ole Miss finished 102nd nationally, 11th in the SEC in turnover margin last year. The Rebels gave it away 31 times, 20 of them interceptions thrown by Jevan Snead. Stanley completed 11 of 23 pass attempts with one touchdown and one interception.
In two years at Oregon, Masoli threw 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions over 544 pass attempts.
Nutt calls the Rebels’ plays with input from his staff. Rader says the playbook will reflect the strengths of whoever is taking snaps.
“Over the years our playbook has been quite comprehensive, and coach Nutt has adapted to many varying styles of the quarterbacks he’s had,” Rader said. “Whoever is our quarterback, the playbook will for sure bring out their abilities and talents. That’s one reason we feel so good about Nathan.
“What we’re asking him to do won’t be exactly what was done with Jevan last year or with Matt Jones (at Arkansas) years before.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or parrish.alford@djournal,com
Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal