Stanley impresses already

It didn't take Nathan Stanley long to impress his college coach. Houston Nutt was talking about the freshman signal caller after the first day's practice.

"I tell you guys about Nathan Stanley. I think we've got us one there," Nutt said with a smile on his face that revealed his initial impressions of Stanley were accurate, even after only one day. "Quick release, accurate with the deep ball, tall, athletic. He was spinning that ball today and when we put him in a 3rd-and-8 situation on the first day, he didn't blink. He handled things well."

Day two showed even more promise for the 6-foot-5, 210-pound quarterback from Tahlequah, Okla. Accuracy. Poise. Confidence. Command. Yes, the Rebs were only in shorts, jerseys, and helmets with no live contact. But it was apparent after watching the first-year Rebel that the offense would be in good hands with him in a game.

Right now Stanley, who played at Sequoyah High, is in a battle for the backup spot with fourth-year junior Billy Tapp behind third-year sophomore Jevan Snead. Amazingly, none of the trio has taken a snap as a Rebel. Of course Snead sat out last year after transferring from Texas, and Stanley just arrived.

That will come to an end on Aug. 30 when Memphis plays the Rebs in Oxford. One of the three will take that first snap, and if things go according to plan, that will be Snead.

By then Stanley might have moved into that No. 2 spot behind the Texan. From the looks of things early, that's a real possibility. But there's a ways to go and lots of practices ahead before speculating on that even further.

On Tuesday at Rebel Media Day, players sat at tables throughout the banquet/conference room in the IPF. Stanley drew some attention from the media, and he said he's pleased with how things have gone so far.

"It's exciting," he said of Media Day and the first week of practice. "It's all been a great experience so far. I'm very fortunate to be in the position I'm in."

The position he's in is a Division I quarterback with a chance to be a part of something special, the ground floor of an offense led by Nutt and offensive coordinator/QB coach Kent Austin. And also working with guys at his position who have been at Ole Miss a while, and in Tapp's case quite a while.

"They're great guys and good players," Stanley said of Snead and Tapp. "They've helped me in learning things, like routes and coverages. It's been awesome to sit and learn from them."

Stanley was an all-state selection in Oklahoma and threw for 2,153 yards and 32 touchdowns as a high school senior. He was familiar with Nutt because he'd attended Arkansas camps since his sophomore year. His hometown is an hour or slightly less from Fayetteville, Ark.

"I've always been a big fan of Coach Nutt," he said. "I think he's a great coach. He's a player's coach. Ever since my sophomore year when I went to camp, I knew they had an interest in me. That was kind of a dominating factor for me (in his decision to come to Ole Miss)."

He signed in February and arrived May 27. He's much more used to things here now.

"I'm very glad I got to be here this summer," Stanley said. "It was a good step for me. I got a lot of preparation in. It's only helped me. I'm glad I got here when I did."

Not only from a familiarity aspect but from a developmental one.

"The workouts and conditioning have all been beneficial for me," he said. "I'm a lot stronger and faster and a lot more in shape than when I got here. I'm putting on weight, but I've still got a ways to go. I'm just taking it one day at a time."

Working with Austin has a huge upside too, according to Stanley. He feels he's in great hands with the former Rebel signal-caller and CFL legend.

"I couldn't ask for a better coach than Coach Austin," he said. "He's very knowledgeable about the game. He's very smart. He knows exactly what he's doing. I'm very fortunate that he's my coach."

Stanley likes the staff's approach to the offensive side of the ball.

"I like the offense. It's balanced run and pass. I've always believed the run game sets up the pass game. I'm liking it so far."

And so far the coaches and others like what they see in Stanley.

"I feel like I'm a pretty good leader," he said when asked about what he brings to the team. "I feel I've got good guys around me here. Good coaches. Good guys up front. Great running backs. I feel I can make good decisions, get in there and be pretty accurate."

But he knows there are things he has to improve as well.

"I definitely have to adjust to the speed of the game. As far as terminology and the playbook goes, I've got to get that under me. I've got to gain more weight. I've got to get better in a lot of areas."

The Rebels joined an impressive list and won out in the end for Stanley. Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Maryland, Oregon State, Kansas State and others all coveted his services. But it was Ole Miss that got him.

"I didn't really know a whole lot about Ole Miss," Stanley said. "I knew it was an SEC school. Of course I knew about Eli Manning. I've always been a fan of the SEC. It's a bigtime confernce. Coach Nutt coming here was kind of what did it for me. And I made the right choice."

Now that he's here, Stanley only looks ahead, and he likes what he sees. He's happy to be in Oxford at Ole Miss.

"Like Coach Nutt says, these are the best days of your life," Stanley said. "And I totally agree with him."

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