Ole Miss' senior Quarterback Brent Schaeffer admitted the 2006 was a "miserable experience" for him.
And why wouldn't it be?
After being declared the "saviour" of Ole Miss football before he ever stepped foot on campus, he ended the dismal campaign with, for him, poor numbers and a body and mind that were "worn out."
Brent was 115-244 (47.1%) passing with 10 interceptions and only nine TDs for 1442 yards. He was sacked 29 times in 12 games.
Not numbers to write home about.
"It was a miserable year," said the soft-spoken Schaeffer, who now has a close, tight haircut as opposed to the dreadlocks he sported last year. "Nothing went the way any of us planned it."
Here's a brief rundown.
Reported on the last possible day before August practice began. Immediately started taking number one QB snaps despite being admittedly out of shape. Had very little working knowledge of the new offense being installed for all Rebel offensive players. Had "brand new" wide receivers, most of whom were fresh out of high school. And the topper - his arm went dead about midway through the year.
These items are not offered as excuses - Brent will have no part of that, but they are facts and, as the common saying of the day goes, it was what it was.
"Whatever could go wrong did," he said. "By the end of the year, I had been under so much pressure, I was spent. Sometimes I felt like I had no control over anything that was happening, no matter how hard I tried."
That's about all the reflection on 2006 you are going to get from Brent. Who could blame him for wanting to leave that experience in his rear view mirror?
He wants to turn the page. Turn over a new leaf and prove to everyone - his teammates, coaches and Rebel fans - that he is worthy of his Signing Day build up.
"I have to do better. I'm working hard to get better and be better," said a more relaxed and at ease Schaeffer. "I worked hard in the offseason to be in top shape this spring. That's a big thing. I wasn't in good shape last year. Now, I'm in the best shape I've ever been in.
"I've been working hard with Coach (Aaron) Ausmus in the weight room and that's helped me a lot. I feel lighter on my feet, stronger, I have more endurance and I actually feel faster than I was at any time last year. I feel real good out there practicing. I feel much better now than I did at any time last season. I feel I am ready to let my talent take over and reassert myself. I don't have to hold back any more. I can turn loose and play. I want to show the type of player I am. I want the real Brent Schaeffer to show up. I have already seen improvement in my game simply because I'm more comfortable and the pressure is not nearly as great as it was."
Besides the physical fatigue of the season, Brent was shot mentally as well. Now, he feels sharper mentally about what's happening on the football field.
"My retention of the offensive system was pretty good, plus we are going back over some of the same things because some of the younger quarterbacks need to start from the beginning of the progression," he explained. "That's helped all of us. But the big thing is that I feel fresh mentally."
Brent is also pleased he's been able to rest his arm, which is now back to 100%.
"My arm feels real good. The offseason helped that a lot. I've got my old zip back and I feel faster than I was last year, as I said," Brent continued.
Another thing that has helped Schaeffer this spring is his familiarity with the other offensive players, in particular his young receiving corps.
"It helps a lot that we are back together. The chemistry is very good, especially with our receivers. I know all of our receivers much better now. I know what they can do and what they are best at. Our timing is better," he noted. "And it works both ways. They know me better too. They know how the ball is going to be delivered and they know how I'm going to react in certain situations. The chemistry is good, not like last year when we were just winging it for the most part. We worked hard in the offseason and it shows now in spring.
"It will take all of spring before we have everything down pat, but none of us are rookies any more. We know what SEC football is like and we are all mature players now. We all understand what it takes to win on this level."
In talking to other offensive players about Brent, it is apparent to them that Schaeffer is now asserting himself as a leader of the offense.
"Nobody knew who I was last year and I didn't know anyone. You can't just come in and be a leader or someone who's running their mouth all the time," he added. "You have to earn the right to lead. I'm able to assert myself now because everyone knows me and we have a bond now.
"We've gone through a lot of tough things together - practices, games, long hours, workouts. Now I have a comfort zone with everyone and feel I can assert myself more in a leadership role than I could last year. Everyone on the team knows they can come to me to talk about anything and I will listen and try to help."
Brent is in a dogfight to win the starting job, with competition from senior Seth Adams and RS freshmen Cliff Davis and Michael Herrick. Transfer Jevan Snead is also getting spring reps, although he won't be eligible to play until 2008.
"We are all competing hard. Seth is doing a good job competing, and so are Cliff and Michael. Jevan is also in that mix because we want to compete with him even though we know he can't play next year," Schaeffer added. "Jevan is going to be a really good quarterback in the future. He's got a live arm and he's real athletic too. He can run and he's tough. I like him - he fits in here well. He's willing to learn and work hard - I like that about him."
Some Ole Miss fans were wanting to know when the real Brent Schaeffer was going to surface.
After a year of seemingly gasping for air, he's ready to breach the water and emerge.
Expect nothing less from number 7 in 2007. The tidal wave that engulfed him in 2006 is now gone.
Brent Schaeffer update -
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