Nathan Stanley has a slight edge on Raymond Cotton going into spring football practice at Ole Miss, but the job is there for the taking for either player.
Holding it then becomes another challenge with the anticipated arrival of junior college transfer Randall Mackey in May.
The first of 15 workouts for Ole Miss is Saturday. The April 17 spring game will be televised by CSS.
Quarterback is one of several jobs open on offense where the Rebels must replace the SEC’s leading receiver, Shay Hodge, and arguably its most dynamic offensive player. Departed tailback Dexter McCluster last year became the first player in SEC history to total more than 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in the same season.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt thought he’d have Jevan Snead back at quarterback, but Snead decided to enter the NFL draft early. He won 18 games as a two-year starter but struggled last year with 20 interceptions.
Playing behind Snead, Stanley’s time was limited. Cotton ran the scout team offense last year.
“I can’t tell a difference in them,” Summers said. “They both throw a pretty nice ball. It’s intense. Nate has been here longer and understands the game more. Ray wants to show he can be the guy too. He’s more of a speedster.”
Both have the physical attributes. Stanley stands 6-foot-5. He has shown nice touch on the deep ball in practice, and while Summers doesn’t call him a “speedster,” he’s not exactly immobile.
Stanley appeared in five games as a redshirt freshman, but his only non-mop-up time was when Snead was benched briefly in the Cotton Bowl. Stanley completed 11-of-23 pass attempts for 163 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
“I think the competition will bring out the best in both of us,” Stanley said. “My strengths are the playbook, the mental part of it. Physically I’ve gotten a lot better. I still have a ways to go in both aspects.”
Rivals.com rated Cotton the No. 11 dual-threat quarterback in the nation following his senior season at Fort Meade, Md., two years ago. He passed for 2,243 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior.
He sees the race as wide open.
“I’d like to think it’s pretty even. My strengths are probably more of my physical features, my versatility, the physical way I run the ball. I think it’s neck and neck really.”
If he completes academic requirements at East Mississippi Community College, Mackey is expected to challenge the spring-time winner when August practice begins.
A junior college All-American last season, he passed for 3,122 yards – tops in the nation – and 32 touchdowns, while rushing for 579 yards and five touchdowns.
“Mackey will be here in May, and until then we’ll give all the reps to Nathan and Raymond,” Nutt said. “Nathan will take the first snap, and we’ll go from there.”