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February 4, 2010

Post-signing day analysis: Quarterbacks

(Editor's note: For six years, Dave Childers has provided a position by position analysis beginning the day after National Signing Day. In a multipart series, he breaks the class down for RebelSports.net. Today, a look is offered at quarterbacks, and in the coming days, the series will look at tight ends, wide receivers, offensive line, running backs, defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs.)

The skinny …  Ole Miss was deep at quarterback last year with the return of junior starter Jevan Snead, senior back-up Billy Tapp and redshirt freshman Nathan Stanley.  The Rebels added four-star quarterback Raymond Cotton and got the benefit of Clayton Moore, a former three-star prospect for the 2009 class, walking on.  Fast forward a year and Snead has opted out of his senior year to enter the NFL draft, Tapp has graduated, and Moore has transferred to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.  Ideally, Ole Miss would have recruited one true quarterback; however, due to having only 22 scholarships to hand out in 2010, the Rebels didn't have that luxury and opted to sign just one prospect - Randall Mackey, who is listed as an athlete - not quarterback - by Rivals.com.

"Right now we have two scholarship quarterbacks on campus and a third coming with Randall Mackey," Houston Nutt said at his signing day press conference on Wednesday.  "Most schools have four or five (quarterbacks) so that is a number that you are concerned with because of injury."

To bolster the position, Ole Miss could look over the unsigned list of prospects and attempt to bring in a quarterback as a walk on to run the scout team next fall or opt to use Pack Toler, a high school quarterback from Jackson, at the position next fall.  Toler reportedly has bypassed an offer from Southern Illinois to walk on at Ole Miss as a wide receiver prospect.

The ones that got away ...  Ole Miss never seriously recruited a quarterback other than Mackey for the 2010 class.  Coaches did look at several quarterbacks, like Miami (Gulliver Prep) prospect Michael Strauss (Virginia signee) and Zach Lee (LSU signee), but never extended a committable offer to any pure quarterback.

Overall assessment ...  While lacking in numbers, Ole Miss will have some significant talent at quarterback.  Stanley got some experience in a handful of games last fall, including the Cotton Bowl, and hit on 11 of 23 passes of 163 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception.  With Snead struggling often last year, Stanley may have been closer to more significant playing time than some fans realize and may have been capable of challenging Snead for the position this spring had Snead returned.  Meanwhile, Cotton drew a redshirt season last fall.  The three highly talented signal callers will compete for the starting position and it's likely at least two will see the field - Stanley or Cotton in a pro set - and Mackey to run the Wild Rebel, taking over from the departed Dexter McCluster.

Cotton was called raw, but extremely talented by former offensive coordinator Kent Austin when Cotton first arrived on campus last summer, and spring practice will show how much he's developed and if he'll push Stanley for the starting position.  While Stanley's arm may not be quite as strong as was Snead's arm, he has been lauded by the staff has having vast potential and capable of making all the throws.  With experience, he could end up being a better passer on deep throws than was Snead.  Moreover, whereas Snead was somewhat excitable and emotional, Stanley is more cocky and confident - in a good way - that could actually improve play at the position.  The downside is that the experience factor is gone, and look for any quarterback to have to deal with that for the first half of next season.

The new face, of course, is Mackey.  He could make Ole Miss' Wild Rebel formation even more formidable because he'll offer a very legitimate passing threat, whereas McCluster threw only one time from the position last fall.  Mackey threw for almost 6,000 yards in two years in junior college and hit at a nearly 70 percent completion rate last fall. He is also elusive and a very legitimate running threat.  If Stanley or Cotton emerges as the starter, look for the staff to put Mackey in to run the Wild Rebel as well as for them to get him on the field as a playmaker, perhaps at slot receiver.  But, if Stanley or Cotton struggle, don't be surprised to see Houston Nutt give the starting job to the junior.

Grade: A

The signees… Randall Mackey, QB, 6-0, 190, East Mississippi Community College, Scooba, MS. JUNIOR COLLEGE:  A 2009 first team and 2008 honorable mention All-American by the NJCAA ... A two-time NJCAA Region 23 Offensive MVP selection and MACJC All-State selection ... Led the nation with 3,122 yards passing and ranked third with 283.2 yard per game as a sophomore ... Finished second in the nation with 32 passing TD's and added 579 yards rushing and five TD's ... Also lead the country with a 69.5 percent completion percentage ... Passed for 2,818 yards and 24 TD's as a freshman ... Added 486 yards rushing and four TD's ... Helped lead East Mississippi to an 11-1 record, the MACJC state championship and a No. 4 national ranking ...  Rated the No. 5 JUCO player in the nation by Rivals.com and the No. 14 player by SuperPrep ... Listed as the No. 1 JUCO player in Mississippi by The Clarion-Ledger ... Coached in junior college by Buddy Stephens ... HIGH SCHOOL:  A 2008 Parade Magazine All-American ... A three-time first team All-State selection by Louisiana Football Coaches Association and the Louisiana Sports Writers Association ... Named the 4A Offensive MVP by the Louisiana Football Coaches Association and the Louisiana Sports Writers Association ... Also named Mr. Football by Louisiana Sports Writers Association ... Rated the No. 11 dual-threat QB in the nation and the No. 18 player in Louisiana by Rivals.com ... Passed for 3,103 yards with 33 TDs and rushed for 1,087 yards rushing with 17 TDs as a senior ... Helped lead his team to three-straight 4A state championships ... Rated the No. 16 athlete in the nation by Max Emfinger ... Named to The Times-Picayune Best of the Rest Preps team ... Threw for 2,066 yards with 27 TDs as a junior and 1,528 yards with 23 TDs as a sophomore ... Coached in high school by Brad Bradshaw.

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