Stanley: 'Seems like my time'

Nathan Stanley should probably steer away from his cellphone bill at the end of the month.

After an impressive spring, the easy-going sophomore has become a popular figure in the Ole Miss locker room this offseason.

Almost daily, Stanley receives text messages from his wide receivers and running backs wanting to throw pass skeleton.

And with the first batch of newcomers now in Oxford to open summer workouts, he's already being looked to for veteran guidance, despite having yet taken a snap as the Rebels' starting quarterback.

"I can feel it," he said. "It almost seems like my time. I feel like the guys have responded pretty well."

Nathan Stanley

Ole Miss has gaping holes throughout its offense, with no development more important than that of the 6-foot-5, 215-pounder.

Gone are, among others, Jevan Snead, Dexter McCluster, Shay Hodge and John Jerry. McCluster and Jerry were taken in the first three rounds of the 2010 NFL Draft in April, while Hodge and Snead signed undrafted free agent contracts.

"I'm hoping we can pick up right where we left off in the spring and continue to build off of that," Stanley said. "Everyone knows we're young, myself included. But I think that's good to know. You've got a bunch of young guys, but there's nowhere else to go but up."

The offense, as expected, got off to a slow start in spring practice, but was able to build some confidence following a solid performance in the annual Grove Bowl game. Stanley was 11-for-16 with 166 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

So when his phone rings or buzzes with a text message this summer, Stanley is quick to answer.

"It's definitely confidence-building," Stanley said. "You want guys who want to work. You can count on those kinds of guys and I think we have a lot of those kinds of guys on our team. Obviously it's going to be hard to replace guys like Dex and Shay, but I feel we've got some guys just as good behind them that are going to step up this year."

Stanley enters the offseason in a battle with freshman Raymond Cotton to replace Snead. Stanley currently holds the advantage, however, considering he took the most snaps in the spring and Cotton was sidelined for an extended period of time due to shoulder fatigue.

Nathan Stanley

He'll also compete with Randall Mackey, a junior college transfer, who was named the JUCO Player of the Year. Mackey arrived at Ole Miss earlier this month, after throwing for over 3,800 yards, rushing for over 580, and totaling 32 touchdowns for East Mississippi Community College.

"Mackey looks good," Stanley said. "I've thrown with him a few times. He's good. He's got a strong arm and throws the ball real well so far. He looks like he can move. I'm pretty excited to see what these (new) guys can do."

Stanley wore his customary backwards cap, t-shirt and gym shorts as he settled into his seat inside the team meeting room of the indoor practice facility recently.

But no longer is he answering questions about his maturity or a failure to grasp a demanding offensive playbook. Now his only focus is on improving and getting stronger (he wants gain around 10 pounds) and becoming a leader on and off the field.

"I feel like I made a lot of big improvements as far as the mental aspect of the game," he said. "I'm a lot further than I was during the season last year as far as the playbook and reading defenses. But I can still always improve on that and making my reads quicker and getting the ball out of my hand faster."

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