A commentary from the Editor">
A commentary from the Editor">

The quarterback saga continues

"From the Press Box" <br><br> A commentary from the Editor

Ethan Flatt and Robert Lane were requested to meet the press by the media on Monday. Usually five to ten players are asked for by media members for those weekly sessions.

Maybe for the first time this season, Micheal Spurlock was not requested.

Significant? Probably not. But it does, seven games into the 11-game season, reveal at least in the eyes of those who need to talk to players at this moment where Spurlock is now as far as getting a story or even a quote.

If the fourth-year junior comes in against Auburn and does well, then we will talk to him again a week from Saturday night and the following Monday. It's the nature of what we do.

These two weeks of practice before Auburn may well indicate what the coaches ultimately decide to do for the last four games of the season with the position. The most unusual of gameplans worked in victory at South Carolina. It almost worked against Tennessee. How long it can prove to be effective, time will tell.

I can hardly remember a time when Ole Miss had a situation like this. The last duo at quarterback might have been Tom Luke and Russ Shows in 1990 and 1991 at times. Tommy Tuberville had a habit of playing one quarterback about six or seven games into a season (Josh Nelson in 1995, Paul Head in 1996), then replacing him with a guy who would be the starter the following season (Head for Nelson in 1995-96, Stewart Patridge for Head in 1996-97).

Coach Vaught used a two-quarterback and sometimes three-quarterback plan naturally back in the Rebels' heyday. He'd often play a senior, a junior, and a sophomore, and sometimes combinations of the three in games throughout the season. A lot of years he would have at least two quarterbacks he'd use regularly.

Of course, much of that was by design and the way his program was built. It worked over and over again.

This year's experiment was obviously done more out of desperation than anything. Had the Rebels been 4-1 or so heading to USC, no doubt the three-headed position would not have emerged.

Credit the coaching staff for doing what needed to be done - which at that point was anything but what had already been done. The current coaches may ultimately decide to narrow the field down to two quarterbacks, which is more likely than them narrowing it down to one, it appears.

Certainly we don't know what goes on behind closed doors in coaches meetings and players meetings during a season or at anytime during the year. Publisher Chuck, more than anyone else in the media, knows what is going on at practice, because he is there day in and day out, before and after practice, trying to best determine what is happening at all times and to relay it all back to you. Sometimes that's difficult as well.

Obviously it remains to be seen if the quarterback experiment continues. I assume it will, in one form or another. It's happened because the gameplan for the quarterback situation after Eli didn't quite live up to what all had hoped, including coaches, players, and fans. It's been a painfully slow transition, and it's hard to believe we're heading into the eighth game of the season and are still wondering.

But that's the way the 2004 season is playing out, a competitive season for this program (check the close scores every game), yet a difficult season to accept given where the program has been the past several seasons.

There are other positions that could be pointed out as having had a hand in the Rebels being where they are right now. Certainly the secondary has given up its share of plays. And receivers have dropped balls at times. And the offensive line, so much more effective lately, struggled early. And special teams, while very good at times, have been off at times. And injuries have taken their toll on players here and there throughout the season, which is nothing new but always detrimental to the cause.

So the Rebs are now 3-4 overall and 2-2 in SEC play, not where any had hoped we'd be. Auburn rolls in on, well, a bigtime roll. I assume the Tigers will beat Kentucky at Auburn this Saturday. I also assume they will be talking national championship when they arrive. Their head coach has been known to talk about that everywhere he's been. At 8-0 and 5-0 when they arrive in Oxford (if they beat UK), they are not only talking the talk but walking the walk.

Micheal Spurlock is a talented football player and a quality person. Ethan Flatt is a talented football player and a quality person. Robert Lane is a talented football player and a quality person.

It is easy to like Micheal Spurlock. With a winning smile, a positive attitude, and hours, days, months, weeks, and years of hard work to get to this point, we all hoped he'd be a huge success filling Eli's shoes.

At 6-6, Ethan Flatt is a towering, confident yet low-key guy, a calming force on the team, especially when it was needed most a month ago. He's come a long way as the starter and his performances have improved. But he's got a ways to go and he always says so himself.

Robert Lane finally got his shot at South Carolina and led the Rebels to a score. He got another shot against Tennessee and led the Rebels to a score.

Robert Lane exudes confidence to the point that it almost - almost - comes across as cocky. There's a fine line that's walked between an air of confidence and an air of arrogance. I don't really see the latter in Lane. But I do see a lot of that confidence.

Lane says whatever is best for the team is what he wants. I know he said it because I heard him say it. He also says he's ready if the coaches choose to play him even more.

"You had a lot of blood on your jersey after the game," a reporter mentioned to the 6-3, 220, redshirt freshman Monday.

Lane raised his left elbow to show a healing scab, then his right, then his arm where there was another.

"If you'd run out of bounds more, you wouldn't get so banged up," that same reporter said to him.

"I'm not ever going to run out of bounds if I've got a shot to get in the end zone," Lane replied emphatically.

Bruce Newman, Spirit photographer, said Lane's emotions after the (non) touchdown on his run to the northwest corner of Hollingsworth Field were as memorable a celebration as he'd seen, that Lane was totally consumed by the score. Of course, then he was called out of bounds at the 3-yard line, so Lane took it all back, I guess.

The coaches have a lot of confidence in Lane. That's a given. But they have, to this point obviously, not decided he is the man to take completely over, as some in Ole Miss fandom have decided they should. As a matter of fact, the coaches haven't decided any of the three is "the" man for the job, at least not yet.

So what will they do for Auburn? We'll just have to wait and see.

But one thing is for sure with that powerful group of Tigers coming to Oxford. The Rebels will have to play their best game of the season in every facet to have a chance to win. Sure it can be done, but it will take their best performance so far for victory.

It's a good thing Ole Miss has the weekend off from playing a game. It's heal up time, physically as well as mentally, for players, coaches, and fans. It's a time for evaluation by the coaches, an ongoing process throughout the season but with much more time to dissect things during a bye week.

One of the things they are bound to be going over and over and over is the quarterback situation. It's something they have been doing all spring and all summer and all fall, now nearly into November.

Replacing Eli was going to be a tall order. Apparently it still is.

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