College Football Analysis: Making Sense of Ole Miss' Quarterback Troubles


The one constant of Ole Miss football is that there is no constant.  It is a chiseled-in-stone truth that applies from year to year and within each individual season.  This, of course, makes following the team for one's life the second greatest test God has ever given man.  The first being the one He gave Job, who wears an Ole Miss jersey in Heaven.

However, over the last several years, a trend, not a constant yet, has developed at the quarterback position at Ole Miss.  Since 2006, the Rebels have had transfer quarterbacks take the majority of the snaps.  The lone exception keeping it from being ALL THE SNAPS was Nathan Stanley, who started the 2010 epic against Jacksonville State, before being replaced in the second half by transfer Jeremiah Masoli. 

In that time, Ole Miss has had two winning seasons out of six seasons, which has led many to believe one of the biggest reasons for Ole Miss' struggles is that we haven't had a quarterback who gets in "the system" and develops.  Instead, these people say, we've fallen in a trap, always looking for a quick-fix while we try to find a high schooler who will end up running the show for several years. 

The looking for immediate help part of that is certainly true, as we've had a terrible time developing and sustaining talent at quarterback.  But, to be fair, we're on our third coach in six years and to say Ed Orgeron and Houston Nutt had a "system" is a pretty loose use of the word "system."

What seems to be overlooked is that, other than Eli Manning, who was a once-in-30-years-player, we've had mostly miserable quarterbacks and one average quarterback to come out of high school.  To show you the horrible, painful truth, I've spent the past 48 hours locked in the Belly of the Beast laboratories (not true; the lab is in a remote village in Cambodia) crunching numbers to compare the stats of Ole Miss quarterbacks who arrived on campus straight out of high school, and those QBs who came to Oxford via transfer of any kind.

(I only went back as far as Stewart Patridge because that his junior and senior years were, in my mind, the beginning of the modern era of Ole Miss football.  Post-probation, revolutionary ideas like questioning the status quo were taking place at Ole Miss, and the SEC had started to become the monster it eventually would be.  Plus, the thought of looking at Paul Head, Josh Nelson, Lawrence Adams, Tom Luke, and Russ Shows' numbers - the guys who played since the SEC went to 12 teams - caused me to excessively sweat.)

Ole Miss QBs directly from high school (with Eli Manning's numbers)
21,796 yards, 151 TDs, 102 INTs, 57.1% completion rate (1,768-3094)

Ole Miss transfer QBs
16,408 yards, 108 TDs, 92 INTs, 54.1% completion rate (1,275-2,355)

Now, here comes the pain.  Take away Eli's numbers and replace them with Romaro Miller's numbers, which were about average, and look what happens (note:  Eli attempted just over 300 more passes than Romaro and threw just one more interception).

Ole Miss QBs directly from high school (without Eli's numbers)
18,406 yards, 118 TDs, 101 INTs, 54.7% completion rate (1,468-2,684)

Of course, that's assuming we would have a quarterback with even Miller's skill level.  You could take the average of all the other straight-out-of-high-school quarterbacks, but then the numbers would be even bleaker.  But, as they are, those are pretty much the same numbers as our onslaught of transfer quarterbacks.

(I would also like to note that the majority of our high school QBs were coached by David Cutcliffe, the great quarterback guru, who should from henceforth always be referred to as Peyton and Eli's caddy.)

So what did all of this teach us?  GROUNDBREAKING OBVIOUS STUFF.  Ole Miss' quarterback issues over the last few years aren't related to us relying so heavily upon transfers, it's that we're just continuing the tradition of relying so heavily on lack of talent.

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