Michael Herrick came to Ole Miss as the most prolific passer in California prep history, throwing for over 11,000 yards in his career at Valencia High School.
But even with that type of high school resume', Michael was guarded about the move up to college football.
"My expectations were realistic. I knew it would be a big jump from high school to the SEC. I knew what I had to do and that my first year I'd probably be redshirted," Michael stated.
So, how did his first year of college ball go?
"I enjoyed every minute of my first year," Herrick continued. "I just wanted to come in here and gain some weight and learn.
"I have gained about 15 pounds since I have been here. I weigh 185 pounds now. The other quarterbacks were great to me. We all helped each other learn and we all worked together to try to get better individually and as a unit. Everything was brand new, but everything went according to my plan."
Herrick, who is a shade over 6-0 and still looks lanky, tried to soak everything in his first year.
"It was good to get to travel with the team some and experience the big stadiums and crowds. I had a lot of fun and liked getting that kind of exposure," Michael continued. "I got an up-close look at the competition on this level.
"I knew coming in that the size of the players and the speed of the players was going to be drastically different, but you can't imagine it until you see it up close. Guys on this level, here and at other schools, are huge, fast and strong. This is a very athletic conference - some of the elite players in the country are in the SEC.
"Everything is so much faster than high school that it takes a while to adapt and adjust."
Herrick says it helped his progress to be able to go against the Rebels' number one defense in practice while being one of the service team quarterbacks.
"You figure out real quickly how fast everyone is when you take snaps with the service team," the soft-spoken Herrick said. "We had a good defense and I was going against it every day. That's all you can ask for as a redshirt freshman."
Michael's adjustment also included trying to learn a new offensive system, sometimes by osmosis.
"One big difference for me was that in high school I lined up in the shotgun most of the time," he explained. "Here, in this system, the QB is under center more. I had to get used to dropping back and getting my footwork better.
"I was also in an offense in high school that threw the ball a lot. I have had to learn more about the quarterback's role in the running game. Reading defenses, learning when to audible and things like that. You have to put your teammates in position to make plays more than you do in high school by reading defenses at the line of scrimmage."
Being on the service team did not allow him the opportunity to really run Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner's offfense much in practice. Each week, he and Cliff Davis and Conner Wise were in charge of running the opponent's offenses in practice sessions.
"I have had to learn Coach Werner's offense in the film room in position meetings mostly," he continued. "Watching film is a great tool, and we watch a lot of it.
"You can also pick things up during the team period in practice by watching the varsity quarterbacks (Brent Schaeffer, Seth Adams and Billy Tapp) run the offense. You have to learn by watching mostly, but that's a good method too."
Herrick didn't have any illusions his first year at Ole Miss and he says he won't have any in spring when he enters the competition for the QB job in spring.
"I'm just going to do the best I can. We have some excellent quarterbacks here. They are all good. It will be a battle, but we'll help each other and the best QB will rise to the top," he explained. "We have a real good chemistry at the position. We all like each other and we all get along.
"It's nice to watch film together because we all help each other, like I said. Quarterbacks have to be team players and do what's best for the team. That's what we all do. That's a good environment to compete in."
Herrick has offseason goals he's already working on.
"By the time the season rolls around, I want to be as close to 200 pounds as I can be. I was real skinny when I came here and I'm still skinny now, but I'm getting there," said Herrick. "I have to put on some padding to be able to take the hits you get at QB in the SEC and in practice."
He has definitely put in the effort to get bigger.
"I don't want my size to hold me back. Coach (Aaron) Ausmus has me on a special program to gain weight. I put in extra time beyond the freshman requirements in the weight room and I eat all the time," he laughed. "I eat four meals a day, consume protein shakes and energy bars between meals and then cap off the day with a couple of peanut butter sandwiches right before I go to bed.
"I wake up early in the morning and start eating again. I spend a lot of time eating. To gain weight has been as important to me as anything this year."
Herrick said he can tell a difference in his body with the 15 pound he has gained.
"I feel a lot stronger and I throw the ball a little harder. I am also running better," he stated. "I work extra on my arms and shoulders to get my arm stronger. I want my arm to be as strong as possible."
Michael says his arm is currently "pretty strong."
"I feel like I can hold my own with velocity and distance in my throws. I have to keep improving and working, but my arm strength is pretty good," he assessed. "My goal is to be the best I can be and that includes getting more total body strength and arm strength. I'll get there."
Last, but not least, Herrick has had to adjust to Mississippi from the faster-paced lifestyle of California.
"Mississippi has been good for me. It's way different, but I like it. I have met a lot of good people here and people are so nice. I wanted a chance from California and I got a good change. This place is perfect and I cannot wait for the next four years," he stated. "With the demands of football and school, we don't have a lot of time to socialize. We don't have a ton of free time, but I've made some good friends.
"I hang out with Joshua Shene a lot and some of the other quarterbacks. We just hang out or go out to eat and then it's back to the books and football."
The one thing Herrick has not adjusted to is grits.
"I like cheese grits, but I haven't gotten used to plain grits yet. I'm trying," Herrick grinned. "Southern food is different, but you have to adjust to it. I love most of it, but I'm still working on cultivating a taste for grits."
If Herrick approaches grits-eating with the passion and determination he approaches football, he'll be Southern, through-and-through, in no time at all.
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