Stanley the starter at Ole Miss, but Cotton raises stock with spring game performance

By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Nathan Stanley will go into August practice as the No. 1 quarterback at Ole Miss.
He may have to look over his shoulder, however, if Raymond Cotton’s shoulder doesn’t blow up on him.
The skill Cotton didn’t get to show through much of the first 14 spring practices he was able to show on the final one, completing 5 of 6 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s Grove Bowl before an announced Vaught-Hemingway Stadium crowd of 30,229.
In a skewed scoring method, the Blue team defeated the Red 49-28. The Red, comprised mostly of defensive players, was awarded seven points at the end of each quarter. A number of established players, particularly on defense, were held to just a few snaps.
Cotton missed a handful of practices throughout the spring and was limited in others. It was determined late this week that he has a torn labrum in his right shoulder, an injury that may go back to his high school career.
“I’ve been throwing like this for a while,” Cotton said.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, in consultation with Cotton and his family, hopes to map a treatment course within the next couple of weeks. It’s possible that Cotton can play the 2010 season and do no further damage to the shoulder with proper rest and attention. Then he would likely have surgery in January.
Nutt said he would only play if he was assured by doctors that playing would not endanger Cotton’s health.
“This is the first time his family has known it was torn,” Nutt said. “It was sore in high school, but they played through it.”
Cotton said the tear is in the back of the labrum, and typically he feels pain when he cocks his arm, pulling it as far back as he can, before passing.
Nutt said he expects Cotton to play if available and indicated he’d have a package of plays to utilize Cotton’s ability to “run the option and sprint out.”
He did not say how the presence of athletic junior college transfer Randall Mackey, who arrives on campus in the fall, might affect the quarterback race and if he’d have a plan to play three under center.
“Let’s just get him here first,” Nutt said.
Stanley went 11 for 16 for 166 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, both by second-team cornerback Charles Sawyer, a redshirt freshman.
Stanley had the Blue team on the scoreboard on the game’s second play, throwing over a defender and hitting Markeith Summers for a 23-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone. He later had a 1-yard touchdown pass to fullback E.J. Epperson.
“There were a couple of passes I’d like to have back, a couple I under threw, but my decision-making has gotten a lot better,” Stanley said. “I have to get better physically and mentally over the summer.”
Nutt said he saw all he needed to see from Stanley through the first 14 practices.
He said two Stanley-led drives that stalled Saturday were because of dropped passes by an inexperienced group of receivers.
After a fast start in the spring, redshirt freshman Ja-Mes Logan lacked consistency in the latter stages. He did not catch a pass in the Grove Bowl. Sophomore Jesse Grandy had an early drop but finished with three catches, one of them an 80-yard touchdown from Cotton on a crossing pattern.
“Nathan’s a little ahead on the playbook, and I saw what I needed to see before today,” Nutt said.

Click video to hear audio