Werner Optimistic About Ole Miss Quarterbacks

As the dog days of summer slowly creep by, there’s one topic of discussion that never seems to get old for the Ole Miss fan base. Who’s going to be the starting quarterback?

It’s the million-dollar question, and the answer may not come until the season starts.

However, we do know there are three guys competing for the job, as Chad Kelly and Ryan Buchanan held a lead over Devante Kincade following spring camp.

“I’m so excited about these guys, all three of them,” Ole Miss offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. “Anytime there’s a competition, if you’re a competitor, you’re going to try to do your best. It’s definitely brought out the competitive spirit in all three of them, not only football-wise but academically.

“I talk to these guys about being the total package. Guys are getting good grades. I haven’t had any issues off the field. They’re working hard in the weight room and running and obviously in the meeting room too. I’m really excited about getting into it and getting after it here in a few weeks.”

Fall camp will undoubtedly play a huge role in determining who the go-to-guy will be when the season opener rolls around Sept. 5.

Buchanan and Kincade have been in the offense for two full seasons now, but Kelly’s big arm has made up for some of the mistakes that have come in the mental aspect of the game, as he continues to learn a brand-new offense.

Ole Miss is one of a few schools around the country that are experimenting with a new virtual reality system that will allow their quarterbacks to have another hands-on approach of learning the offense, and it should be a big help for all of the quarterbacks, especially Kelly.

“The players love it,” Werner said. “It’s almost like fun for them to come in and work on it. … Before this type thing came around, the only time you got a rep where you can actually see a defense would be in a live 7-on-7, a practice or a game obviously.

“The only tests we were really able to give them was a written test where I would give them a sheet and ask them to draw a play up and tell me your progression or your read and all the different questions I can ask about a play. Well, they can sit there and think about it. Now, it’s happening in real time, so the play will be called, and in a couple seconds, the ball will be snapped, and they have to find their read. You can tell by where their head moves if they’re making the right reads or not and if the ball is actually thrown on time. It’s as close to the real thing as you can get. They’ll get 100 times more reps with this than they would in practice.”

Ole Miss’ virtual reality system comes from EON Sports, and it gives the quarterbacks a real-life experience of standing in the pocket. Werner said each quarterback will get anywhere from 20 to 40 additional reps every other day throughout the summer by using the EON system.

“There’s no way to tell now, but I can’t imagine that it’s not going to (help in fall camp),” Werner said. “Repetition is what it’s all about. If you keep on working it and working it, you’re going to get better at it.”

Werner also said it’s a big advantage for young quarterbacks like freshman Jason Pellerin, who can come in and get those mental reps from the pocket instead of watching from the sidelines in practice.

Currently, the Rebels are using the EON Sports system strictly for quarterback play. However, the system can be used with any position, and that’s something Ole Miss is considering for the future.

“We’ve talked about letting the running backs see it and see blitz pickups for pass protection type things,” Werner said. “Also, maybe to work on the run game and show exactly how it’s blocked. I think the uses of it are limitless. We just have to keep on exploring and see what we can do with it.”

So when August rolls around and Ole Miss gets back out on the practice field, it will be interesting to watch the quarterbacks.

Werner’s optimistic that this new system will help tremendously in the mental progression for each guy on the roster. And if it does, it couldn’t have come at a better time for Ole Miss.

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