In football, the quarterback drives the car. (How's that for an elementary, cheesy analogy?)
He determines direction, speed, turns, stop and go. Essentially, everything.
But any "driver" is only going to be as good as his engine and his wheels.
Jevan Snead is the Ole Miss quarterback. The offensive line is the engine. The wideouts and running backs are the wheels.
So how do all of Ole Miss' components stack up to give everyone involved a pleasing driving experience?
To determine that, we need to look at all the parts, starting with Snead.
The expectations for Jevan are high. Knowing him, he'd have it no other way. His expectations for himself are off the charts. He's quietly confident in his ability, which is pretty cool to watch. The last quarterback we had with that demeanor is now starting for the New York Giants.
Which brings us to the inevitable, the comparison to Eli Manning. I get asked that at least 10 times a day.
There's no way to respond except the following: we'll have to wait and see. But, if I was lined up against a wall and threatened with a firing squad, I'd say the sophomore Jevan compares favorably with the sophomore Eli. Unfortunately, what we all remember about #10 is his senior year, the last impression. That comparison is not fair to Jevan at this stage of his career.
Jevan probably has a little stronger arm at this stage of his career, although I'd have to say Eli's accuracy when he was at Ole Miss was uncanny. He's definitely a better overall athlete than Manning, re: runner. They are both bright and studious. The reason the question cannot be answered yet is that Manning has already proven that he's one of the best decision-makers in the QB business under fire. We don't know about that part of Jevan's game yet. He has earned the pole position in the practice runs, but the real race starts Saturday.
Personally, I'm betting Jevan is going to be special. He has that makeup. You can readily see those qualities, but it will be interesting to see how he reacts to live, oncoming, out of control traffic on Saturdays. I think he has the "it" factor.
Protecting him, and providing the engine for the whole vehicle, is the offensive line/tight ends.
Again, my belief in them is high. Sure, I'd love it if Center Daverin Geralds had more experience. I'd be more convinced of my optimism if John Jerry had some more (any) experience at right tackle. I'd be more inclined to crow if there was more game-ready depth, but all-in-all you have to believe that Michael Oher, Darryl Harris, Geralds, Maurice Miller, Jerry, Reid Neely, TEs David Traxler and Gerald Harris are going to get the job done efficiently under the guidance of OL Coach Mike Markuson and TE Coach James Shibest, veterans of the SEC trenches and mentors who have also expressed confidence in the Rebel front.
Coming into fall camp, Markuson was looking for more physicality and "dominance." He says there's still work to do there, but he has gotten more physical play than was exhibited in spring. He was looking for them to play "as one," and has been pleased in that area as well. As for the depth situation, Markuson said he's rarely had a full two-deep in his career, so he's Ok with what he's got. If he's OK, I'm OK.
The wheels are broken down into two categories - the sleek 22" spinners (wideouts) and the 18" "thicker" models (running backs).
From the start of spring, the wideouts have been ballyhooed as a strength of the offense. From their work in fall camp, there's nothing to refute those sentiments.
Mike Wallace, the inspirational leader of the pack, had a brief setback with a hamstring pull in early August but is now full speed and as dangerous as ever as the fastest player on the team. . . Dexter McCluster will be counted on to be a go-to guy in several capacities and he has delivered on all levels in the preseason. . . Shay Hodge remains the same - Mr. Dependable. . . Lionel Breaux and Markeith Summers have matured and are ready to leave their marks on the unit. . . And freshman Andrew Harris has all the tools to develop into an excellent receiver, probably sooner rather than later.
The wideouts are talented on their own, but it will only help their cause to have a slinger like Snead delivering them the ball and an Offensive Coordinator like Kent Austin and Wide Receivers coach like Ron Dickerson putting them in better positions to succeed.
The running backs have mostly new tread - none of them have played much, if any, on this level. That's the uncertainty of the position, but more relevant is the easily deduced appearance that all of them have the necessary ability to get the job done. That's Cordera Eason, Derrick Davis (who may play some fullback too), Brandon Bolden, Enrique Davis and Devin Thomas - Coach Derrick Nix's prize pupils.
It's interesting to hear Houston Nutt's take on this "problem." He likes a "stable" of backs and the premise of going with the "hot" guy. If one is getting it done, keep feeding him the ball. If not, it's "next" time.
Senior Jason Cook is a fine, fine football player who will do the dirty work in the run game as the lead blocker for the TBs and personal protector of Snead, but look for him to get the ball a few times a game. Jason doesn't need that as motivation to play hard, but it can't hurt his feelings any. His backup, Andy Hartmann, is old-school bad to the bone. He loves contact and relishes the knockout punch.
Which brings us full-circle back to Snead.
While the Ole Miss offense is his car, and we expect him to be an extremely good driver who knows when to press on the gas and when to swerve out of danger, he's not alone on the field, and the other parts look to be ready for the road test.
Here's hoping for a clean race and the checkered flag to be waving for the Rebs.
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