When spring training started, Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron declared the quarterback position was wide open.
When spring training ended, he said senior Seth Adams had an edge, but he was not ready to name him the 2007 starter.
Because returning starter Brent Schaeffer and redshirt freshman Michael Herrick had done enough in spring to make things interesting and leave the door open.
Herrick was a long shot to win the job in spring, and may still be fighting against long odds, but he made enough of an impression in spring training to turn some heads and get "equal" reps with Adams and Schaeffer.
"Michael knows the passing game. He's a smart player who understands what we are trying to accomplish," said Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner. "He's got an accurate and live arm and he makes good decisions."
The 6-0 1/2, 185-pounder (yes, those are legit height/weight numbers) started getting first and second team reps midway through spring and did nothing to disappoint.
"I think Michael has a very good future at quarterback here, and it could be sooner than some think," Werner added post-spring.
It's been well-documented Michael came to Ole Miss at 170 pounds and was used to run the scout team in 2006. It was pretty much known he would redshirt his true freshman season.
The thought process was that he'd need another year to grow, mature and learn while Adams and Schaeffer battled for the number one spot. But the coaches saw an opening for quality reps in spring and liked what they saw.
"I got sick over the Christmas break. I had to get my tonsils out and lost about 10 pounds, but I'm fine now. It was very frustrating to lose the weight I had worked so hard to gain, but it didn't hurt me in spring," he said. "I just started back eating a lot and have put the weight back on.
"I thought I had a good spring because I got to take reps in the offense and learn. Last year, all I could get was film work in QB meetings. In spring, I got reps and that helped me learn what to do under fire."
Herrick believes he's gotten a grasp of the offensive system now, but he understands he has to keep plugging at it.
"Nothing is too easy and nothing is too hard about the offense. It's like going to class - you have to study it and take your test on the field," Herrick explained. "The terminology is more than I was used to, but I'm getting the hang of it now."
In high school, where Herrick threw for over 11,000 yards and became the career leader in passing yardage in the history of the California prep ranks, Michael was exclusively in the shotgun and his team passed about 80% of the time.
Now, he's under center most of the time, has to drop back and view the field at the same time.
"The footwork in dropping back is something I had to adjust to," he said. "Reading what's happening during dropping back is different from what I am used to. It's a big adjustment, but we work at it a lot and I'm getting better at it.
"It's harder than the casual observer thinks. You have to work at dropping back correctly and handing off the ball when and where the back needs it. I know it looks simple, but if you've never done it, it's not something you just go out and do."
Michael said the added weight he has put on, plus rigorous workouts in the weight room, have helped his arm strength.
"I can see a lot of difference in my throws. I can always get stronger, but my arm has strengthened and I can tell it in my throws," he said. "Coach (Aaron) Ausmus has worked hard with me to get my shoulders and throwing muscles stronger and it's paying off. It's getting there."
Herrick said he's comfortable with any throw Werner asks him to make now.
"When I first got here, there were some throws I had trouble with, but as my arm has gotten stronger, I feel I can make any throw that is called for," he noted.
Herrick took spring training one day at a time.
"Progress is a process. I just went out there every day with the intention of getting better and I think I did. You work hard one day at a time and put the last one behind you. You move to the next day, hopefully a better player," Michael stated. "It doesn't happen all at once or in one day.
"What we all have to do as quarterbacks is to continue to learn and be more consistent. The big plays will come, but our job is to get people in the right places at the right times to make plays. We became more consistent as a group in spring, but we still have more to do."
Herrick said the QBs have been the beneficiary of improved play by the wide receivers.
"We were all kind of thrown in the fire last year. Brent, the receivers, Seth, all of us. Now, we are gaining more chemistry and are communicating better with the wide receivers. They have matured and know what we want and what they are supposed to do. It's all coming together, but, like I said, it's a slow process at times," he added. "They got open in spring and they caught the ball. They did what they are supposed to do."
There's really no way to guess or project where Herrick will end up on the QB totem pole this year, but it is apparent he made a positive impression on the coaches and he is in the picture when fall rolls around.
"Seth is further along right now than I am. Brent was the starter last year and has that experience, but we are all competing and we are all getting a shot to show what we can do," he closed. "I'm making progress. That's all I can do right now. I'll see where that takes me."
The majority thinking by Rebel fans is that Herrick will most likely play behind whoever the starter is in 2007 then compete for the top spot with transfer Jevan Snead in the following years.
But Michael has the tools and the desire to surprise everyone in August. It will not be a major shocker if sometime in 2007 we all look up and number #14 is under center barking signals.
Michael Herrick update -
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