Every day, at least five times a day, someone will ask: Who's going to be the starting quarterback next year?
That's always an important issue - every spring, but the past two springs there was no need to ask that question. Jevan Snead was the obvious answer.
Now, Jevan - having decided to pass on his senior season - is gone, Billy Tapp has graduated and walkon Clayton Moore has transferred out to Gulf Coast Community College, leaving only two true quarterbacks - sophomore Nathan Stanley and redshirt freshman Raymond Cotton - on campus.
That makes the popular query doubly pertinent and relevant.
Also adding to the air of uncertainty surrounding the position is the introduction of a new Rebel quarterbacks coach and offensive co-coordinator, veteran mentor Dave Rader, who came on board when Kent Austin opted to take the head coaching job at Cornell just a few weeks ago.
New QB, new coach. Anything else? Well, uh, yes. Within that delicate, unknown structure, these guys, and OL Coach Mike Markuson, will be trying to break in and establish a new center during spring training.
It reminds one of a scene out of the movie My Cousin Vinny when Vinny's girlfriend, Lisa, is pressuring him about getting married during the middle of his first murder trial, which, by the way, is not going too well.
"Is there any more stuff we can pile on to my situation right now?" Vinny asks, desperately.
Is there any more "stuff" we can put on the quarterback situation right now? Thankfully, no, but that's enough.
But the starting from scratch scenario is very intriguing, to say the least.
We'll begin with Rader, who will be charged with the quick development of the young Rebel QBs.
While his hire was not universally met with great fanfare by some Ole Miss fans, his first interview with the press and testimonials from his former pupils such as Brodie Croyle and Gus Frerotte prove Nutt made a wise decision and got exactly what he wanted in a QB coach and passing game coordinator.
Nutt needed stability, maturity and a calm at that post and he got it in Rader, who thoroughly understands not only the urgency of the situation but the importance.
"The maturation of the quarterbacks is critical to the maturation of an offense," said Rader. "We understand the task at hand in needing to develop and mature these young quarterbacks and we understand the clock is already ticking in that process."
It's a safe assumption Rader is the right man at the right time for the challenge, but what of the candidates caught in this mini-maelstrom of newness?
"When I met Nathan and Raymond, and they were coming through the door of my office, my first thought was this is what SEC quarterbacks are supposed to look like," Dave stated confidently.
Former QB Coach Kent Austin always sang the praises of both, but he was not in a hurry up situation with them. He had the luxury of taking his time with both and letting them develop at their own pace, to a certain extent. Let us not forget, had something happened to Jevan, Austin had fifth-year, reliable senior Tapp in his back pocket for insurance.
In a nutshell, Austin always felt Stanley had excellent physical tools, but until August of last year did not approach the mental side of the game - film study, meetings, etc. - with enough tenacity and conviction. Stanley got better marks with his attention to detail in 2009, but even during that campaign Kent was left at times having to force the study issue rather than those ingredients coming naturally to Stanley, unlike the studious Tapp.
So it would seem the biggest hurdle for Stanley as spring approaches is to get deeper into the playbook, spend more time in the film room and absorb whatever Rader throws his way.
Nathan has done a very good job of gaining weight and strength since his arrival to Ole Miss almost two years ago, so his physicality is not an issue.
Stanley is more of a dropback/shotgun type of quarterback, very similar to Snead, but he's got enough athletic ability to tuck the ball and run if necessary.
Cotton is behind the eight-ball, compared to Stanley, in the learning curve, but not from lack of attention or effort. It's just a simple matter of Nathan having been in the system a year longer and Raymond having to run the scout team most of last year rather than the Rebel offense.
Ray set the team record for quarterbacks in the bench press and he's got good speed for a QB. His arm is extremely strong and he's capable of every pass known to the game.
His hurdles are going to be his development in the system and gaining more accuracy with his throws. The strength of his arm is unquestioned, but even he admits he's got to be more accurate and more consistent.
So, what's the answer to the oft-asked question?
Even Nutt doesn't know the answer.
"I like both of them - I just wish both would have one more year to develop," he said. "Having said that, they don't. We have to microwave them, so to speak, but I am confident in them and in Coach Rader.
"It would not surprise me if both got a lot of playing time next year. They are different and we will design different things to tap into the best of both of them. Ray might be more of a bootleg, waggle, option, rollout guy where Nathan may be more like Jevan.
"We'll see how it all pans out, but all we really know right now is that spring training will be critical for them and we like the somewhat raw material we have to work with."
No Jevan, new coach
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