Concussion Repercussion?

Junior Ole Miss Quarterback Randall Mackey worked hard during his redshirt year to overcome a communication stigma that has been going on since the eighth grade. Read his thoughts inside.

Talking one-on-one, or in a small group, with junior Rebel QB Randall Mackey seems normal enough.

He has no issues carrying on a normal conversation. There's a hint of nervousness when he's being interviewed by the media, but otherwise he's attentive and bright.

You'd never know he has a communication issue when he's on the football field, but he does, one he's had since the eighth grade and one he has worked on diligently since arriving at Ole Miss and redshirting last year.

"You can walk up to him now and have a full conversation and never know (he has an issue)," junior running back Brandon Bolden said. "Just for some reason, in the huddle. . . . I don't know if it's because it's more than one person paying attention to him.

"I don't know what it is. But he's a great player, a real great player. We've got to find some way to get his skill out there on the field."

When Mackey gets to the line of scrimmage, he has had moments, for lack of a better description, of freezing up mentally and a mute button is triggered.

Randall Mackey
Courtesy: Chuck Rounsaville
"I started noticing it after my first concussion when I was in the 8th grade," said Mackey. "It was difficult to communicate at the line of scrimmage and in the huddle at times."

"First concussion" is a significant phrase in the Mackey saga. He's had two more since then.

"I got my bell rung in the 10th grade and again in junior college ball," he said, almost laughing about it.

In high school and junior college, Randall was helped with play and signal calling duties by other members of the offense. When he got to Ole Miss, the problem was more on display and he's been addressing it ever since.

"I've gotten better, especially in the huddle. I still have some issues at the line of scrimmage," he continued. "I'm working on it. I don't really understand it or know what it is, but I know it's something I have to overcome."

"Days when we start throwing, we kind of run a mock huddle. We have the quarterbacks and a few receivers kind of standing there, having him say the play just to get him used to it," Bolden said. "He actually started getting better at the end of the season. You could hear him saying, ‘Go' and ‘Set, hut.' He's gotten better, but he's still a work in progress."

Did the series of concussions exasperate the problem? Certainly, it seems to be more than a coincidence that the symptoms popped up and intensified after his first bell ringer.

But this is not a time for diagnosis. It's a time for hoped-for productivity and results as spring rapidly approaches. Does Mackey think he can overcome the communication affliction?

"Like I said, I'm better. We'll see in spring," Randall reiterated. "It's baffling to me, but I'm confident I can get this fixed.

"I am not real worried about it. Once I get the ball in my hands, I have always had the ability to get it in the end zone and I expect that to continue."

Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt concurs.

"Randall may have a little problem, but I am very pleased with how much he has progressed and where he is now," said Nutt. "The redshirt year helped a lot with that issue and we, as coaches, have to understand he's more comfortable in the shotgun where you don't have to use your voice as much. We can work through this with his improvement in that area and with use being smart in the way we coach him."

The next most important issue in the Randall Mackey story is the condition of the knee he injured three weeks ago and had surgically repaired.

"It's about 75% back, I'd say. I will be able to participate in spring training," he verified. "I'm on schedule in the rehab and things are coming along fine."

Nutt said Mackey taking a redshirt last season helped with his issue
Courtesy: Chuck Rounsaville
During his redshirt season, Mackey put on significant weight to his slim, lithe frame.

"I have put on about 25 pounds," Randall smiled. "I was around 175. Now I'm between 200 and 205 pounds. I have been in that range for several weeks."

When spring rolls around, Mackey is expecting a lot of competition at the quarterback slot.

Besides junior Nathan Stanley, who has been at Ole Miss going into his fourth year, and Mackey, there's JUCO transfer Zack Stoudt and West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti to deal with.

"It will be a hard competition. All those guys can throw the ball really well. Zack and Barry have really strong arms," said Mackey. "Barry and I can run better, but Nate and Zack can really throw. It's going to be interesting."

"Everybody's kind of neck-and-neck right now," Bolden said of the quarterback race. "They're just out there throwing. We haven't had any plays, anybody running at them or anything. But as of right now, everybody has a real strong arm, they know where they're going with the ball and they know where to put it."

In preparing for spring, other than the obvious of getting his knee right, Mackey and the other QBs have been diligent in their pursuit of learning the offense being introduced by Offensive Coordinator David Lee.

"Coach Lee is throwing a lot at us right now," Mackey stated. "I'm doing pretty good with it right now. There are some old things we did last year and there are some new things we have to learn.

"It's wide open. Whoever performs in spring the best will win the job. The guy who takes advantage of his spring reps will get the edge going into fall."

Will it be Mackey? Will he be able to overcome the concussion repercussion?

He's game to try and see how it all shakes out.

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