Stanley ready to compete
A backwards cap, floppy hair and baggy gym shorts are basically how Ole Miss sophomore Quarterback Nathan Stanley has been recognized during his first two years on campus.
As an "apprentice" to Jevan Snead the past two years, Nathan has kept a somewhat low profile other than his signature attire.
Suddenly, with the announcement that Snead would not be returning to Ole Miss for his senior year, that has drastically changed.
Either Stanley or redshirt freshman Raymond Cotton will most likely be "the man" in 2010, following in the footsteps of the likes of Snead, Eli Manning, Romaro Miller, Stewart Patridge, all the way back to Chunkin' Charley Conerly.
His anonymity is a thing of the past. Welcome to the glare of the spotlight, Mr. Stanley.
Welcome to scrutiny.
The new journey for Stanley began suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly, with Snead declaring he would make a run at the NFL a few days after he helped lead the Rebs to a Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma State.
"Jevan never really said much about going pro while he was here. I got that feeling a little bit during some Cotton Bowl practices, but he never really said it," said Nate. "I was a little surprised, but not totally."
After Snead made his decision, Stanley's mindset changed immediately.
"I realized I had to get ready. I was next in line. I know the spot is still open and I have to compete and work, but I've been here longer than Raymond and feel like I am a little ahead at this point," Stanley explained. "But it's a whole new mindset for me. I have a chance to be the guy and I have to do what I have to do to get ready for that."
Stanley got a taste of "real" football in the Cotton Bowl after Snead absorbed a vicious hit during an interception return by a Cowboy defender. Before then, his limited playing time was more mop-up duty.
"That was my first big situation to be put in. It was much more fast-paced. It wasn't a clean-up gig," he noted. "I was pumped at first because I was not only getting a chance to play but I was getting a chance to play against Oklahoma State and I'm from Oklahoma.
"I was psyched, but I tried to be calm. I didn't want my teammates to see me being nervous and I sure didn't want the other team to see that. I tried to be cool and collected."
With that experience and Snead's presence in his rearview mirror, Stanley is going about the task of not only getting ready for spring football, but in learning the nuances of a new quarterbacks coach, David Rader, who replaced Kent Austin on February 1.
"I've spent a lot of time with Coach Rader. We've been talking a lot, watching film and going through the playbook," Nate stated. "I'm looking forward to playing for him. I knew about him at Tulsa when he was there and followed him at Alabama when he was there. I know he's a great coach and that's exciting."
Rader has just been going over the basics with Stanley and Cotton so far, so Nate is not sure what direction Rader will take the passing game.
"He reminds me a lot of Coach (Houston) Nutt in his approach. We don't know what's going to happen with the offense right now, but we know the system is going to stay basically the same. We'll figure out the wrinkles Coach Rader brings to the table later, but I'm looking foward to getting into it with him," Stanley noted.
For now, Stanley and Cotton are doing some behind-the-scenes competing, in the weight room, throwing to the skill players, etc.
"I have been here longer than any quarterback on campus and have been in the playbook a year longer than Raymond, but while I think I have an edge right now, the position is wide open," Nate assessed. "I know I have to work and compete. Ray is very competitive and everything we do is a competition. We take pride in it."
Stanley believes his evolution into the starting quarterback, if he earns it, will include a little bit of everything.
"I'm still working on my body. I'm 217 pounds right now and would like to be 225-230 by next season. I know I have to get into the book more - you can never do too much of that, and I know I have to continue working on my mechanics," he allowed.
Coming out of high school, Nate took some time to adjust to the demands and rigors of the film room and studying the playbook on the collegiate level, but he feels he has a grasp of what it takes now.
"I certainly was not used to what it took and what goes into being a college quarterback," he admits. "I was overwhelmed, to be honest. I got behind, but as I realized what was required, I got better. I took it to heart how important knowing what to do is. It's night and day now from where I was when I got here.
"I know all the plays. I know the playbook. My task will be learning the reads more thoroughly and I have a ways to go in that department, but time to get it done."
Nate also understands the inherent nature of the quarterback position - that there is leadership required.
"Leadership comes with the territory of being the quarterback," he explained. "We have some really good guys stepping up to fill the shoes of some of our leaders who are no longer here, but I understand I have to take on a big role. I think I am ready for the challenge."
Nathan says he is enjoying everything he has been thrust into since Snead's departure.
He better be. The spotlight is on and it will only get brighter as the 2010 season approaches.
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