OXFORD – One step forward, two steps back is not the formula Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt wants to see in his competition at No. 2 quarterback.
Mistakes by redshirt freshman Nathan Stanley have left the door open for senior Billy Tapp, however.
Stanley’s arm and athleticism helped him take a lead in the race for backup behind junior starter Jevan Snead.
Nutt praised Stanley’s performance in last Saturday’s scrimmage, but Stanley has not taken hold of the job this week.
The Rebels conclude spring football with the Grove Bowl scrimmage game at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“Nathan really took off in the scrimmage, but in two days it’s like he’s gone back a little bit,” Nutt said. “He’s really not seen enough disguises (from the defense) and different looks, so he hasn’t looked as good the last two days.”
Stanley and Tapp took all the reps in Wednesday’s practice, while Snead rested his arm.
Stanley had some nice completions in the two-hour workout, but Nutt was bothered by several mistakes.
Stanley failed to recognize the free safety on a fade route and threw the ball inside the receiver instead of to the outside.
He held the ball too long in the pocket resulting in a sack, and failed to check into a different play against a certain defensive front.
“The game’s fast for him right now,” Nutt said. “We’re letting our defense throw everything at him, and that’s good for him, but it’s not easy right now.”
Offensive line depth
– Left tackle Bradley Sowell and right guard Rishaw Johnson have held starting jobs the last two weeks after some up and down movement earlier in the spring.
The top two linemen behind the starters appear to be senior Brandon Green, a junior college transfer last season, and freshman A.J. Hawkins, a member of the 2008 signing class.
Green has been used at both guard positions and was playing center Wednesday. Senior Mark Jean-Louis has been the primary backup to starting center Daverin Geralds, but Jean-Louis has struggled with consistency.
The quest for depth will place a lot of attention signee Bobbie Massie when he arrives on campus in August.
“You don’t know right now how he will handle things, how he’ll handle getting the book thrown at him.
“It may be that we have a package for him,” Nutt said. “But at 6-8, 340, if he’s physical, he’s going to play. At least he can get a tie, and sometimes all you need is a tie.”
– Man-on-man pass coverage was at times an issue last season, but cornerback play was stronger at season’s end.
Marshay Green, the defensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl, and Cassius Vaughn have held the starting jobs all spring.
Vauhgn says it took a while for the corners to get used to playing a different technique last season, one that calls for the defensive backs to turn their heads and find the ball.
“Get your eyes turned back. He can run out there,” was the way cornerbacks coach Chris Vaughn, no relation, taught the technique to backup cornerback Demareo Marr Wednesday, as he urged Marr to use the sideline as an extra defender.
“What we’re playing now is a true, physical press, not a soft press like in the past where we’d put our hands up, open our hips and never look back for the ball,” Cassius Vaughn said. “We’ve got to be ball hawks in this system. Once we got that technique down, that was big for us.”
Parrish Alford/Daily Journal