By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
A year ago at Ole Miss, spring football concluded with defensive coordinator Dave Wommack telling us he felt he had five or six players who could play in the SEC.
Not five or six All-SEC players.
This year, the buzz word around spring football was “depth.”
Hugh Freeze and his staff know who their starters are at most positions. There may be a player who works his way into a larger role – safety Chief Brown perhaps – but with 19 starters returning the competition was less about jobs, more about finding quality reserves.
That’s the fringe benefit of so much inexperience and so many question marks in spring 2012.
Freeze had good reason to talk about “the wilderness” then. He was about the start the season with a junior college transfer at quarterback – and even that wasn’t set, because Bo Wallace had not distanced himself from Barry Brunetti.
Come the season opener, Wallace was the starter but with an asterisk. By season’s end he was the Conerly Trophy winner.
Wallace is not about to be unseated as the starter. While he missed spring with a shoulder on the mend depth played out behind him with Brunetti and Maikhail Miller.
Freeze will have an interesting decision ahead regarding freshman quarterbacks Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade.
He says he wants them to compete. If one or both of them come in and do something extraordinary then the team as a whole benefits.
If they take the newcomers’ more traveled route, Freeze could redshirt both.
Maybe Kincade, the more mobile freshman, is so much faster than Brunetti and Miller that he becomes a true Wildcat option.
If Wallace were to go down early to injury, maybe Buchanan’s pocket skills make him the best choice to step in.
Brunetti brings a lot of savvy to the position, Miller strength and mass that is hard to tackle, a ball-handler who is also a powerful runner.
I’m not sure how well either would hold up long-term in the passing game. Brunetti completed 63.9 percent last year, but that was on 36 attempts.
He left the spring hopeful of a conversation with Freeze about how he might be used. He wants to get on the field and can be an asset. Maybe his role changes, maybe not.
What has changed is depth under center. Brunetti has experience, Miller potential.
An Ole Miss offense without Bo Wallace would look very different.
It could also be successful.
Parrish Alford (email@example.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.