Randall Mackey, Nathan Stanley, Barry Brunetti and Zack Stoudt are all vying to fill the role vacated by Jeremiah Masoli -- the four evenly splitting reps in practice and in the team's first scrimmage of spring inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday.
But Mackey has earned the most praise by his coaches after five of 15 allotted practices, including today's some 100-play scrimmage. Offensive coordinator David Lee raved of Mackey's ability to extend plays, even referencing Super-Bowl-winning quarterbacks Aaron Rogers and Ben Roethlisberger (of the Green Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively).
"He's the most accurate guy we've got," Lee said of Mackey, who was 5 of 8 for 48 yards and a touchdown Saturday. "He can hit what he's aiming at, if given the chance to set his feet and throw it.
Mackey was asked if he viewed himself as the leader in the ongoing quarterback battle. He was quick to brush off the question. Mackey said all four are equal. Ole Miss is ushering in a new offense under Lee, leveling the playing field.
Lee assumed play-calling duties from Nutt after being hired as offensive coordinator in the off-season.
"I don't view it like that," he said. "I view it as all of us is equal as one. That's just coach's decision. Right now, we're just competing with each other. We're going to let Coach Lee decide on that. We all just go out there and try to do the best we can at practice."
Stoudt, who was 6 of 14 for 43 yards and had an interception in the scrimmage, said the same. All the quarterbacks, according to the junior college transfer, are equal.
"Right now we're all getting equal snaps, equal reps," he said. "Everyone got snaps with the ones and twos today. As far as reps at practice, it's been equal. We're all getting our shot. Maybe next week we'll see some separation, but right now there haven't been any signs of that. We'll see what happens."
But Stoudt has also been impressed with Mackey. Stoudt, a junior, enrolled at Ole Miss in December, after two seasons at Iowa Western Community College.
"One heckuva athlete," Stoudt said. "Does some things I can't do. He's a good guy. You can see him run and move. It's fun to watch him."
Mackey redshirted as a junior, his first season at Ole Miss. His accuracy has often drawn rave reviews from Nutt, most notably last August, when Mackey competed with Stanley for the starting job prior to Masoli's clearance by the NCAA.
Nutt admitted Mackey stood out in the scrimmage, which lasted nearly two hours. But he also made mention of the other candidates, noting that one week is just that -- one week. Two full weeks remain. Ole Miss concludes spring practices with the Grove Bowl April 16.
"Just going by the eye, just watching them, Mackey, boy, does some really good things," Nutt said. "Brunetti throws good. Once he understands what's going on with the brand-new offense … when he executes, he's very smooth. Zack and Nathan are both true drop-back quarterbacks. Zack threw some nice balls under some duress. Nathan hit a couple.
"We just got to keep going and keep putting them in this situation. That will tell everything to me. Let us watch the film, and we'll see where we are."
Stanley opened 2010 as the starting quarterback before ultimately giving way to Masoli in the second game against Tulane. He was 3 of 11 for 11 yards in the scrimmage. Brunetti transferred to Ole Miss from West Virginia. He is awaiting a decision by the NCAA on a hardship waiver to be eligible to play immediately. Brunetti was 5 of 6 for 79 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
"It's been a lot of stuff for our whole offensive unit," Mackey said. "Everybody's got a lot of stuff to learn for a new system and a new offensive coordinator and everything. We just got to go out there and pay attention and make sure we do everything as told."