Backup No More

Sophomore quarterback Nathan Stanley acknowledged Monday that he was battling nerves with his first career start just days away. Not that anyone could notice. He was his usual, laid-back self as a sizeable media contingent gathered around him in the team meeting room of the indoor practice facility.

Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt, sharply dressed in a full suit and tie, stepped into the team meeting room of the indoor practice facility Monday.

He looked the part of a SEC head coach whose team was entering game week for the first time in seven months. The last time the Rebels have hit anyone but themselves was in January, when Ole Miss defeated Oklahoma State, 21-7, in the Cotton Bowl.

Houston Nutt

Nutt's weekly press conference acted as the unofficial kickoff of the 2010 season. His team meets Jacksonville State Saturday at 2:30 p.m., with many questions left unanswered, and only a week remaining in the month-long chore of preseason practices.

"Hard to believe it's game week," he said.

Not nearly as unbelievable as the exaggerated wait for quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's NCAA clearance waiver.

For three weeks, Nutt has been unable to name a starting quarterback. His hand was somewhat forced Monday, when he announced that first-team repetitions will be split between sophomore Nathan Stanley and junior Randall Mackey.

Nutt expects to receive word on Masoi's status by Wednesday at the latest. Still, he has to move forward with what he knows he has, which is a pair quarterback lacking in the experience department.

"Just to be focused and take these guys seriously," Stanley said of his approach this week. "(Jacksonville State's) corners play real well. They're a real athletic team. They're corners are real aggressive and have good ball skills. They fly around to the ball."

Stanley was the backup to Jevan Snead for two seasons, so it's only natural that he's feeling some nerves with his first career start just days away.

"It's exciting," Stanley said. "I've been the backup for about two years now. I'm really looking forward to it. I can't wait. It's going to be really exciting. There'll be some nerves that set in, I guess. I've waited this long to be the starter, so I'm really looking forward to it."

Masoli (left) and Stanley (right)

But also unsettling is what his role will be when the ultimate decision on Masoli is rendered. Nutt has acknowledged he'll use two quarterbacks this season, with Stanley, presumably, making up one half of the equation.

"I've never really been in a situation where I've alternated quarterbacks," Stanley said. "Like I said, Jeremiah can play. He'll get to play a lot. If it helps, then I'm all for it. I don't know. I just have to be focused when I'm out there and stay in it when I'm not. I've just got to pay attention to the game."

Stanley was his usual, laid-back self Monday. He sat in his customary backwards hat, t-shirt and gym shorts, a sizeable media contingent gathered around him. He wasn't too high or too low, staying comfortably in the middle despite all the attention centered on his position.

Not that he wouldn't like for Masoli's situation to be resolved.

"Jeremiah's a great football player," he said. "He makes big plays, he can throw the ball and he can run. I've built off of that. He's a great competitor. We compete really hard in practice. It's made me better.

"He's handled it well, as far as I know. He goes out every day, he's focused and he's ready to play. I don't know if Jeremiah's had a bad practice yet. It shows he's focused. He's shown what he can do."

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