The Familiar Face

With much attention being paid to Ole Miss this summer, head coach Houston Nutt has continued to field questions on his star pupil. But having his face publicized in national headlines hasn't bothered junior QB Jevan Snead.

The expression is often overused and downright cliché, but football is a team game.

On the gridiron it takes 11 men, working together in a collaborative effort, to achieve the goal of victory in the country's most strenuous sport.

But fair or not, when a team reels off six straight wins to end a season, one player gets a little more attention than the others.

For Ole Miss this summer, it's been junior quarterback Jevan Snead getting the bulk of publicity.

"You know, Jevan and I have talked this summer about that, that there's going to be a lot more attention on him," head coach Houston Nutt said. "When you play the way you play, at the end of the year, there's going to be attention. It's how you handle the attention.

"I just want Jevan to keep being Jevan."

Remaining grounded can be a bit difficult, however, when your name is consistently splashed across national headlines.

Starting all 13 games under center for the Rebels last season, Snead finished second in the SEC in touchdown passes (26) and third in passing average (212.5). The Stephenville, Texas native also established school records for average yards per completion (15.0) and pass attempts (8.4).

Better yet, Snead improved drastically as the year went on. After tossing four interceptions in a forgettable loss to Vanderbilt at home, Snead closed the season with 20 touchdowns and only six INTs.

Maybe it was added confidence after the team's thrilling upset in the Swamp. Maybe the increased production was simply a step in the maturation process.

Regardless, all could see a different aura around the Ole Miss signal-caller by season's end.

"I think Jevan probably had his worst game right before Florida," said Nutt. "But then he comes back. If you fast forward from the first five games, fast forward to the last seven games, Jevan was a different quarterback. Why? Because he took care of the ball. He got us out of the wrong play, got us in the right play, and distributed the ball to different guys. He was just outstanding.

"I was so proud. The way he responded after the Vanderbilt game was the key. As poorly as he played, Jevan played his best game the next week in Gainesville. To be able to come back and handle that shows a lot of character."

And now in his second season under offensive coordinator Kent Austin, Snead hopes to carry his game to the next level.

After a convincing win over Texas Tech in the 73rd Annual Cotton Bowl Classic, Snead and company have been the toast of college football since January.

The team that won zero conference games the year before, topped Florida and LSU in the regular season's final stages, leaving all eager for an encore or better. With every preseason publication comes a top-15 ranking. At every turn, a pat on the back.

Leave it to Snead to play down the praise.

"I think with our ranking comes a lot higher expectations," said Snead. "As far as the team goes, I don't think we're handling it any differently. People said we weren't going to do well last year. We ignored them and kept working hard. I think this year we're doing the same and working hard. We're going to follow that same formula and keep doing everything we can to improve."

All too familiar with the trials of stardom, current New York Giants' quarterback Eli Manning understands the pressures facing Snead.

A quarterback's junior year can be taxing according to Manning, as one can often be tempted to force action instead of playing within the offense.

"Jevan came in last season and you saw him grow as a player throughout the season," he said. "When you think about it, he hadn't really played at the collegiate level until last year. It took him a little time managing the game and getting into the college flow. As the year went on, he got better and better. By the end of the season, he was playing as good as anyone. Hopefully he has that same attitude and doesn't force things. He just needs to continue to play within the system and trust his guys.

"I had a little trouble my junior year trying to do too much. You get a little over-confident. You can't try to make plays when something's not there. When you try to make something happen that's not open, that's when you get in trouble. He just needs to continue to play within the offense. You can play aggressive and have confidence in your ability, but play within yourself. They have a good coaching staff that will put him in the best position to succeed."

Good advice from a Super Bowl MVP.

Although he tossed multiple TD passes in nine games, threw for 200 or more yards six times and 250-plus in three games, Snead knows there's much to improve on.

Similar to Manning, Snead is even hearing the Heisman talk himself. However, he'll leave that discussion to outsiders. This man's team-oriented.

"I try not to put too much into it," Snead said. "When you're a kid, you dream of stuff like that. I've had a rocky road getting to where I am. Just to be mentioned with all the great players and for the Heisman is a great honor for me. At the same time, I'm not focused on that. That's not my main goal.

"My main goal is to do everything I can to improve, so I can help my team get some wins."


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