Who's Next?

While a premature topic, the future replacement of quarterback Jevan Snead is an interesting debate. With the junior becoming draft eligible this season, the rapid maturation of freshmen Nathan Stanley and Raymond Cotton has come into focus in fall camp. Read about it inside.

Though only entering his second year as the Rebel starter under center, junior quarterback Jevan Snead is already being considered among the top quarterbacks in the country entering 2009.

Becoming draft eligible this season, Snead, who ranks behind only Eli Manning on the Ole Miss single-season passing charts for efficiency (second), TDs (third), and yards (fourth), was pegged by NFL draft guru Mel Kiper as the seventh overall pick in Kiper's initial mock draft of the year Thursday.

The 6-foot-3, 220 pounder has also been named to watch lists for the Walter Camp Player of the Year, Davey O'Brien National Quarterback and Manning awards, with media and fans left to wonder the next in line when Snead's days in Oxford finally come to an end.

Sitting second and fourth on the depth chart, freshmen Nathan Stanley and Raymond Cotton are already competing to be the one called upon as the team's signal-caller upon Snead's departure.

The two are still enduring growing pains of on-the-job training in preseason practices, but offensive coordinator Kent Austin believes each are capable in handling the duties when needed.

"I sure hope they're ready (to take over). They better be, or we'll be in the market for somebody else," Austin said tongue-in-cheek. "But seriously, we've got a lot of confidence in those guys or they wouldn't be here. They each have a lot of physical ability. All of them have good skill sets. What we need to do is get them up the learning curve so they can compete mentally at the SEC level."

Stanley, long thought of as the heir apparent to Snead, has had an up-and-down start to fall camp.

However, Austin can see the tools in the redshirt freshmen, saying Stanley only needs time in live action to acclimate himself to quarterbacking in the toughest conference in America.

"He's pretty quiet. Nathan doesn't say a lot. He let's a lot of things roll off his back," Austin said. "In some cases it's good, in some cases it's not. But he's getting better. He's just another guy who needs to play. It's hard to get better as a quarterback until you start playing. I'm talking about real playing when the lights are on and the bullets are flying. That's when quarterbacks get better. Jevan was a testament to that last year.

"He doesn't wear his emotions on his sleeve like Jevan does. Jevan's pretty easy to read, but Nathan is not. He's going to give you the same, calm demeanor and same look on his face regardless of what happens. But when you spend as much time as we do together, you get to know their personality. They're like your own children. It gets easier to read them after time."

Having spent a year under Austin's guidance, Stanley emerged as the front-runner to backup Snead in the spring, possessing a plus arm and strong mechanics for the position.

His abilities have certainly impressed the Stephenville, Texas native, who said Stanley will only get better in time.

"I definitely see a lot of potential in Nathan," said Snead. "Just like the whole team, we're just all growing and getting better each day. I see a lot of potential in him. He's got a great arm and can throw a good ball. If you need to put it in there or you need some touch, he can throw the ball well. As far as some of the things he needs to work on, because he's young, he doesn't have a lot of experience in decision-making. That's something he's still working on. But I've had to work on that too. It's something he and I both need to work on."

Tabbed as Scout.com's No. 22 nationally ranked quarterback coming out of high school, Cotton is also making the most of his opportunities during practice.

The versatile quarterback out of Ft. Meade, Maryland is already being talked about as a possible Wild Rebel candidate this fall, but Austin plans on bringing the former four-star along slowly in his first year on campus.

"He can do a lot," said Austin. "He can throw and he can run. He's young. We have to get a real good handle on what he can handle mentally and make sure that if we do put him in a situation like the Wild Rebel, that it's something where he's highly effective, can play fast and doesn't have to get in a game of think too much.

"He might (play this year), but we're still discussing it at this point. If he does, it'll be a pretty small package. What we have to do is weigh that against taking reps away from other things that we do well. There are only so many snaps in a game you're going to get. So if it's something that advantageous to our production offensively, then we'll look at it. But if it's lesser production, I'm not sure if it makes a lot of sense."

As Snead faces the pressures of draft eligibility in his junior season, the matter of next in line will continue to be a topic of debate until season's end.

But whether or not he'll forgo his senior season in favor of NFL millions will have to wait, as Snead prepares for one of the more highly anticipated seasons in school history.

"I try not to put too much into expectations," he said. "When you're a kid you dream of stuff like that, but I've had a rocky road getting to where I am. Just to be mentioned with all the great quarterbacks 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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