The Quarterbacks

A lot was accomplished offensively and at QB in spring training, but there is still no "winner" for the starting quarterback job. Read Part IX of a series with the assistant football coaches on spring training inside.

Quarterbacks Coach David Lee, who also runs the offense, was reluctant to name a QB depth chart at the end of spring training.

Right now, he simply does not know who will emerge as the number one guy.

"Due to the inconsistencies in production that the entire position has shown, I can't tell you what the pecking order is," said Lee.

In no particular order, Lee just started talking and evaluating the various candidates.

JUCO transfer Zack Stoudt was the first on his mind at the time.

"Zack's strengths are a live arm and possessing a lot of arm talent," Lee said. "He also understands the offense the best of all our quarterbacks right now. He was really good in the huddle. I see signs of him being a leader for us – he just hasn't been here long enough to take that role yet. He was right at the top with his accuracy of our quarterbacks as well. I grade him as having had a good spring and someone who came on strong late. He's in the thick of the battle for the starting position.

"I am disappointed he could not play in the spring game, but he's got to get his academics in order to participate. I think he will get things straight real soon."

Lee shifted to transfer Barry Brunetti next.

"He's young, he's talented, he has a strong arm and he's tough," Lee said. "Right now, he's learning the offense. When he sees it the second time around, he'll make a big jump from this spring. The area of improvement I'm looking for is his accuracy. You have to hit what you are aiming at. He had a really good second scrimmage – he was more accurate. He just needs to get reps in this offense. He's studious and a quality person.

Randall Mackey
Alex Edwards
"We are also very pleased the NCAA granted him immediate eligibility so he can play in 2011. That could be very big for us depending on how this race for the job pans out."

Randall Mackey started off spring like gangbusters, but tapered off a bit at the end.

"Randall is as good at throwing the deep ball as I can remember in a long time. He has an uncanny ability of being able to put the ball down the field 40-50 yards and intersecting the receiver full speed," Lee assessed. "I thought he came out of the chute really fast, but tailed off at the end. He needs to be more aware of his hots and sights in the passing game. He made tremendous strides in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage. He just needs a good summer and to throw all the routes to all the receivers all summer. He's definitely in the thick of things to be number one."

Nathan Stanley got the next mention from Lee, but Nate, who went through spring training, has recently announced he is going to transfer out of Ole Miss.

"He's good in the huddle and he has a good knowledge of the offense – maybe the best of the group," Lee noted. "Nathan is a good worker and a fine young man. We wish him well in everything he does. He felt he would be better off going somewhere else and we understand that. Someone will be getting a good man and a good football player."

Evan Ingram also drew praise from Lee and was a bit of a surprise for the O boss.

"He played really well in the second scrimmage. In 14 plays, he had 11 pluses with a dropped TD that was on target," Lee noted. "He's accurate and a tough guy. I like Evan – he just won't go away, meaning he gets better every week. I don't have a full evaluation on him yet."

Walk-on Robert Ratliff has turned into one of Lee's favorites.

"He's a gym rat. Robert is here on Saturday and Sunday asking me to help him. He's great in the meeting room and he understands what we are doing," Lee stated. "He wants to be a coach some day and he'll be a really good one. He has a burning desire to be a coach. Really, he's my favorite."

From an offensive standpoint, the OC in Lee surfaced quickly.

"On our offensive line, we are extremely big. Our whole goal going into spring practice was finding out who our five guys are. We did an enormous amount of moving guys around looking for that chemistry and that five we can trust. We want five who have feet to pull, physical guys, tough guys, reliable guys," Lee evaluated. "I think we are close to knowing who those five are. We also have some guys who are developing into pretty good backups – you know we are only an injury away from needing them. Who's next?

"At tight end, I was concerned when I first met Ferbia Allen if he had enough lead in his britches to do it, but truthfully, he's the player on offense I trust the most. He's a touch blocker, he doesn't make mistakes and he's going to catch the ball.

David Lee
Bruce Newman
"The wideouts were the most inconsistent group on our side of the ball. We have a long way to go there and are anticipating our newcomers coming in. When we get some more capable bodies come in, the competition will make them all better, but we were like a yo-yo this spring there.

"The running backs, to me, are the strength of our offense. We have four RBs who can play. Enrique Davis was the most productive guy we had on offense, overall. He reminds me of Eddie George, who was in Dallas one year when I was, and the way he runs hard. He improved greatly on all phases. Brandon Bolden got hurt, but I liked what I saw before he did. I think Enrique and Brandon can both play on the next level. Then you throw in Jeff Scott, who is a burner and has improved a lot, and Devin Thomas, who can play on this level, and we are pretty good there.

"I love our fullbacks. H.R. Greer, to me, is like Ferbia. I trust him. The tougher it gets, the more he likes it. I think he's our glue and can become our leader on offense, and we need some leadership to emerge. E.J. Epperson has also improved a lot. We challenged him and he got better. He's gained consistency and toughness."

In terms of learning the offense, Lee was satisfied, considering.

"We put a lot on them this spring. They did a real good job of focusing and catching on. We did not have mental errors all over the place," Lee closed. "We didn't always execute very well, but they retained what we taught them at a very good pace. I was proud of them from that standpoint."

Bottom Line: For half of spring, it looked as if Mackey was going to run away with the QB job, but then he started getting sporadic and Stoudt and Brunetti kept coming on stronger. By the end, Lee didn't have a clear-cut winner. Offensively, it was what was expected – flashes and a good start to getting things right. August will be critical for that unit for lots of reasons, starting with sorting out who the QB will be and trying to get needed improvement from the wideouts.

Next Up: Chuck's Take On Spring.

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