Race is On

Randall Mackey isn't giving in. He can't, not with an opportunity to start in front of him.

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But he hears the words spoken by his head coach, Houston Nutt, and offensive coordinator, David Lee. Still, the second-year quarterback is preparing each day as if he will start Ole Miss' season-opener against BYU.

"I just got to keep coming out here and working hard with my teammates," he said. "You know, everybody is trying to get on the same page with the offense. We just got to keep going and keep pushing -- one practice at a time."

Barry Brunetti, the frontrunner in a three-man race which also includes Zack Stoudt, is approaching practices with a business-like approach. His mindset is that of a starter. Brunetti has taken the majority of first-team reps through the first week of fall camp.

"I've just got to keep taking reps as a one and keep going forward with it and keep getting better each day," he said. "Try not to have a bad day, forget about it and just keep going. Think in my mind that I am the starter, ‘cause I know I've got two great guys right behind who could be the starter any day."

Barry Brunetti
Chuck Rounsaville

Both players have had their ups and downs, days better than others. However, Thursday Ole Miss installed some of its option-read offense. And, unsurprisingly, the pair of dual-threat quarterbacks impressed -- Mackey especially.

"It was one of my good days, ‘cause the offense was like something that I could do good. Barry, too. Zone reads and all that, we're straight quarterbacks for that type of offense," Mackey said.

"We're kind of run and pass guys," Brunetti said. "Today was an option day for us. It was kind of our day to show what we can do with the option, something we've been doing all or lives. It came easy today."

Mackey was 11 of 17 with three touchdowns, according to Lee, who is in his first season as Ole Miss' offensive coordinator. Brunetti was 13 of 16 with a rushing touchdown. Not to be forgotten, Stoudt was 4 of 5 with a touchdown pass of his own.

"I really believe all three can play," Lee said. "Two of them are similar with Mackey and Brunetti with their escapability and the potential to run the option and the quarterback draw. Stoudt is more your pure drop-back guy.

"(Thursday), Barry and Randall both looked like starters. To be honest, right now, I trust Barry a little more on and off the field. He's a trustworthy guy."

Brunetti, a sophomore transfer from West Virginia, and Mackey, a redshirt junior, are the quarterbacks most talked about by coaches and players alike. A head-to-head battle over the final three weeks of August is brewing, it seems.

"At practice, it ain't like that between me and Barry," Mackey said. "He's got my back and I've got his back. When I get down, Barry's right there to pick me back up. When he's down, I'm right there to pick him up."

"No one guy is sticking out right now. But both Barry and Randall are doing really well," sophomore running back Jeff Scott said. "Any way it goes, whether Mackey wins or Barry wins, I think we'll be good. Mackey, he's coming along well, picking up the plays or whatever. Barry also is coming along.

"I definitely think that it's very important that one of them takes responsibility of running this team, ‘cause we can't run the ball all the time."

Nkemdiche ready for full pads:

Denzel Nkemdiche was restless earlier this week. He was sitting at home, waiting on the NCAA to hand down a ruling that would determine whether or not he could play as a true freshman at Ole Miss.

Denzel Nkemdiche
Chuck Rounsaville

The wait was brutal, "depressed," he said. He returned home to Loganville, Ga., in eager anticipation. All the while, Ole Miss had begun fall practices.

"I was itching to practice. When they were trying to make the decision, the NCAA, it was kind of scary. I just wanted to be here with my team. I was hating it at home," he said.

But he is on campus now and practicing with the team, albeit without full pads. The NCAA stipulates that players have to spend at least two days in shorts and shirts and another day or two in shoulder pads and shorts before they can work in full gear.

However, such limitations haven't stopped Nkemdiche from quickly making an impact. The 5-foot-11, 194-pound safety is already rotating in with the second team behind starters Damien Jackson and Frank Crawford.

Nkemdiche will suit up in full pads for the first time in Saturday's full-contact scrimmage.

"It's tough, ‘cause I want to be out there making plays and getting hyped with the defense. I think I can make a huge impact -- enthusiasm, making plays and coming with it every play," he said.

He's had little trouble fitting in, either. The team, he said, has developed good chemistry.

"We're all coming together," Nkemdiche said. "We're doing a lot of team-oriented things, trying to come together. There's no little side-to-side clicks. Everybody's just one team."

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