Barry Brunetti running for his life. This could become a common theme of Rebel football this fall.
This offseason, we at the Cup want to make as many premature and hardly founded guesses as to what we anticipate out of this football team during the 2012 season as possible. What we report now, in the doldrums of Summer, are subject to inevitable change, making this entire exercise somewhat futile, but deterred we are not because, really, we just want to talk about football again.
So here is installment one of what we anticipate. As always, feel free to opine in the comments section.
It's a cliche we are all tired of hearing, but that won't stop me from repeating it once more: if you have two quarterbacks, then you don't have one quarterback. That's exactly where the Rebels stand as of right now regarding the most important position on any football team, and new head coach Hugh Freeze has suggested that such a situation isn't likely to change as of right now. He has even mentioned the idea of a two quarterback system, so long as he knows who of the two is more clutch or able to perform in a close fourth quarter.
So who are these quarterbacks? Junior Barry Brunetti and redshirt sophomore Bo Wallace, both of whom are guys Freeze coveted for his system at Arkansas State long before Houston Nutt was even fired.
Brunetti, a Memphis native, transferred away from West Virginia after his freshman season to be closer to family. Due to an NCAA loophole, Brunetti was allowed to transfer free of penalty so long as he chose one of three schools closest to Memphis: Arkansas State (where Hugh Freeze was coaching and actively recruiting Brunetti), Memphis, and Ole Miss. He came to Ole Miss, Houston Nutt got shitcanned (several games too late NO WE STILL AREN'T BITTER ABOUT IT), Freeze is hired, and he gets the guy he always wanted anyway, albeit after a circuitous route.
Let's just ignore Barry Brunetti last season. I mean it. Just zap it all from your memory if you can. I don't think it's fair to judge the quarterback based on Houston Nutt's final year in Oxford and all the bullshit that entailed, so I'm fine with giving him a clean slate. Let's look, instead, at what he has shown in practice and scrimmages thus far.
Brunetti, first of all, can scoot. Hugh Freeze's offense relies a lot on quarterback mobility and read-options, something which Brunetti can excel at. I feel he runs about as well as any halfback we've got on our roster, just perhaps not as fast. Because of this, he's a valuable offensive weapon, and because of this I expect to see plenty of him this fall in a quarterbacking role, unless he just absolutely can't cut it whatsoever.
His arm strength I don't doubt. His accuracy is suspect. His grasp of the offensive system is a big unknown. His athleticism, though, is where he will earn his keep.
Sophomore Bo Wallace has a strong arm and apparently understands the offense well. More than anything, his time under Freeze at Arkansas State probably prepared him well for the pace expected of the team. Wallace can run when asked to, but he's certainly not the same runner Brunetti is.
While this is mostly speculation, you get the sense that if our team were pretty good, Wallace might be the quarterback to go with. By that I mean he's a seemingly consistent quarterback who likely won't LOSE the game for his team. He doesn't have the same big play ability on the ground Brunetti has at this point though, and his inability to escape SEC pass rushers will likely make his job quite difficult behind a bad offensive line. While Freeze suggests that Wallace has the upper hand right now, I would guess that in year one, Brunetti will be more successful. After our team actually adjusts to Freeze's style, Wallace may be the guy.
Oh, and then there's Mikhail Miller. He's, um, there and stuff.