AP: Quarterback Race Takes Center Stage

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — New quarterback Chad Kelly took the snap, dropped back a few steps and threw a tight spiral over the middle to a wide-open Taz Zettergren, who ran untouched 43 yards for a touchdown.

The competition to replace Bo Wallace as the next Mississippi quarterback will likely continue throughout the summer and preseason camp, but it's those types of throws that are helping Kelly's cause in the three-man competition that includes sophomores Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade.

The Rebels played their spring game Saturday, trying to build on a 9-4 season that included a trip to Peach Bowl. Coach Hugh Freeze was the closest of anyone to Saturday's action, standing on the field about 10 yards behind each play.

He's concerned about several positions. But it's no coincidence his eyes were usually on the quarterback.

"Quarterback play today was good, but then you miss a couple touchdowns on double moves," Freeze said. "Those are plays we've got to hit and those guys know that. I saw some positives from all three that we can build upon going into the offseason."

Freeze said Buchanan had a slight edge in the competition going into the spring game, but he wasn't sure about the pecking order after watching the three quarterbacks compete on Saturday. Kelly completed 9 of 19 passes for 104 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Kincade completed 9 of 18 throws for 93 yards and also ran for 50 yards. Buchanan was 5 of 16 for 49 yards and an interception.

"When you have other guys (competing for the job) you've really got to make the most of your repetitions," Buchanan said. "When you get your chance to lead a drive you've got to make the most of it."

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Kelly is a junior college transfer who is the nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. He threw for 3,906 yards, 47 touchdowns and just eight interceptions last fall for East Mississippi Community College.

But his off-field baggage is significant. He nearly didn't make it to campus after being arrested in December following a fight outside a bar in his hometown of Buffalo, New York.

He eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct.

It's not his only brush with controversy. Kelly was kicked off of Clemson's team in 2014 following an argument with the coaching staff during its spring game.

SOME BIG NAMES RECOVERING: Ole Miss is confident it has a chance to compete in the SEC's Western Division thanks to a talented class of juniors that includes defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, receiver Laquon Treadwell and left tackle Laremy Tunsil.

Treadwell and Tunsil didn't play on Saturday because of serious injuries suffered last season, though both are expected to be ready by August.

Treadwell broke his left fibula and dislocated his ankle while trying to catch a touchdown pass in a game against Auburn. Tunsil suffered a similar injury in the Peach Bowl against TCU.

DISAPPOINTING RECEIVERS: Freeze had a lot of praise for most of his players on Saturday. One exception: The receivers.

With Treadwell on the sidelines, Freeze was looking for others to emerge as a potential go-to option. He saw some promise from guys like Damore'ea Stringfellow and Derrick Jones, but not nearly enough consistency.

"We're going to shake out of it, they're going to be fine," Freeze said. "... These guys have certainly got to be one of the strengths of our team and I still think they will be."

WINNER, WINNER STEAK DINNER: Ole Miss split its roster into two teams for the spring game — the Red and Blue. The Blue team won 17-7 and as a reward will get a steak dinner while the Red team will dine on hot dogs.


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