Rebels' QB upgrading his ability to change plays

OXFORD – You only get so many plays in a football game. Why mess one up when you don’t have to?
“Why waste a play if it’s not going to work?” Ole Miss wide receiver/running back Dexter McCluster asks.
The Rebels, going full gear in spring drills today, will have a better chance to be in their best play more often if quarterback Jevan Snead continues to progress as he did at the end of last season.
“I need to improve in pretty much everything I do,” Snead said. “I made progress on my decision-making at the end of last season, but there’s always room for improvement.”
Coaches expect to see Snead as a different player this season in his ability to read the defenses before the snap and know how to exploit them.
“We’ll give him more freedom in letting him change plays. He understands what we’re trying to get to,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. “This time last year and right now, it’s like night and day, just the way he calls a play. You can see it roll of his tongue. He’s so confident now.”
Through the beginning of last season, his first as a collegiate starter, Snead was confident in his ability but not always confident in his understanding of the offense.
He transferred to Ole Miss from Texas following the 2006 season and began learning the system of former offensive coordinator Dan Werner. Last season he was not only learning the ins and outs of the starting job but the new system of Nutt and offensive coordinator Kent Austin as well.
Sometimes it was two steps forward, one step back. Snead struggled at times with turnovers and accuracy in the first half of the season, but he played his best football at the end.
Snead threw 11 of his 13 interceptions over the first eight games.
He had a 50 percent completion rate in wins over Auburn and Louisiana-Monroe, a figure Nutt wanted to see increased.
Snead was on target much more in his last three games, wins over LSU, Mississippi State and Texas Tech, when he completed 48-of-73 attempts (65 percent) for 779 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Rebels scored 45 against MSU, 47 against Texas Tech and 31 at LSU, where Snead took a knee at the Tigers’ 2-yard line to end the game.
Snead finished as the SEC’s third-rated efficiency passer, going 184-for-327 for 2,762 yards, 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Wishing he could audible
There were times last season when Snead saw something in a defensive alignment that didn’t look quite right but neglected to change the play, because he was uncertain of the best play.
“You get in situations like that, and you don’t want to change to the wrong play,” he said. “I trust our coaches to put us in a good play, but sometimes the defense has your number, and it’s best to get out of that play.”
As he became more comfortable, Snead’s numbers increased and he strengthened the confidence and trust his teammates had with him.
McCluster senses that now when Snead surveys a defense.
Reading the defense and making changes when necessary was one of Eli Manning’s greatest strengths as a senior in 2003. He was the last Ole Miss quarterback to have that much savvy at the line of scrimmage.
“When your quarterback can change a play like that, it just takes your offense to the next level,” McCluster said. “If he knows something different will work, why not call it. Jevan is great at that.”

Parrish Alford/Daily Journal

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