Because of a suspension to one quarterback and ineffectiveness by another, Brunetti will appear in game for only the fourth time Saturday when Nutt coaches the Rebels for the last time.
Nutt suspended starting quarterback Randall Mackey prior to last week’s LSU game – a 52-3 decision and the Rebels’ 13th consecutive SEC loss.
Backup quarterback Zack Stoudt was unable to move the team, and he was replaced by Brunetti with about five minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Now Brunetti, the sophomore transfer from West Virginia, will start for the Rebels against rival Mississippi State, who also recruited him out of high school in Memphis when he was rated among the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks.
“It’s kind of difficult, but if I didn’t prepare myself the last few weeks when I’ve been sitting down, then I would have hurt myself. But I’ve prepared myself, and coach (David) Lee and coach Nutt have helped me prepare myself,” Brunetti said.
Ironically, it was Stoudt who replaced Brunetti near the end of the first half in the season opener against Brigham Young.
Brunetti was named the starter because Mackey was suspended for the game following his Aug. 23 arrest on a disorderly conduct charge.
Stoudt was effective then and started the next three games. Mackey finally won the job in Week 5 at Fresno State and started every game leading up to LSU.
“Quite honestly with you men, Mackey was my choice in the spring. He screwed up in the summer. He was my choice to open against BYU, and the day before we go to name him, he got himself arrested,” said Lee, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. “We had some discipline problems with Zack, and Barry goes to class, he does the right thing.”
‘scared to death’
Lee had concerns about Brunetti going into the BYU game because in practice he’d shown a willingness to throw into coverage.
“He threw into coverages very early against BYU where they just weren’t even complicated, and he did it in practice the two weeks leading up to it,” Lee said. “I was scared to death he was going to throw it right to them again.”
Brunetti is getting this chance because of his running, not his passing. He had some nice gains on the read option against LSU’s No. 2-ranked defense and finished with 74 yards on 15 carries. He was 5 for 10 passing for 30 yards with no interceptions, no touchdowns.
Because Brunetti dropped to third on the depth chart following the BYU game, his practice opportunities have been almost non-existent. He insists he’s been able to improve throughout the season some by attending quarterback meetings but more because of the work he’s put in on his own time throwing to different receivers after practice.
That’s allowed him to have confidence in his receivers and to know what makes them tick on a route, he said.
“I still have good chemistry with the receivers, Donte and Snoop, and Collins, everybody’s personnel and the speed, just by throwing to them every day as individuals,” Brunetti said.
In fact, Brunetti’s biggest challenge this week of practice has been in regaining the conditioning it takes to play for longer stretches in a game. That, too, has been helped by running on his own time.
Brunetti has high hopes and expectations for his second start. He understands it can have a long-term impact, but he doesn’t want to look too far past the present.
“As a team we figure we’re all auditioning for the new coach, but at the same time, we don’t know who this guy is. We want this win for these coaches, go out and play for these coaches who been with us the last 12 weeks and since January. We want to win it for them mostly.”