This cannot continue to be our avenue for acquiring quarterbacks. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
There's a common theory among college football pundits that a team should sign a quarterback every year. I personally hold that viewpoint as well. While I understand that there can be deviations from that blueprint in some circumstances, I think that ideally we should be signing a high school quarterback every season. Assuming redshirts, this would give us five quarterbacks on campus every year in an ideal world. Assuming a transfer or two, we would still have at least three or four high school quarterbacks on campus.
Unfortunately, this hasn't been the case for the Rebels. Even when we have signed a high school quarterback, they have generally been underwhelming prospects or fizzled after arriving on campus. Two recent commitments could change all of that.
Since Rivals began rating players in 2002, Ole Miss has signed nine high school quarterbacks. In the past three signing classes, Ole Miss has signed just one.
From 2002-2006, the Rebels signed the following high school quarterbacks:
Ethan Flatt - 2* - (2002)
Robert Lane - 4* - (2003)
Paul Eck - 0* - (2004)
Billy Tapp - 2* - (2005)
Michael Herrick - 3* - (2006)
While none of those quarterbacks proved to be SEC starters, at least the sentiment was there. Sign quarterbacks. Get them on campus. See if they can improve. The raw talent was only visible in Robert Lane, whose career was ruined by accuracy issues and Ed Orgeron. All the others were physically limited or simply not talented.
Orgeron, apparently satisfied with Brent Schaeffer and Seth Adams at quarterback, chose not to sign a quarterback in 2007. In their defense, they secured Jevan Snead's transfer before signing day and probably figured they couldn't find a freshman to challenge Adams and Schaeffer immediately.
Ed Orgeron was fired, having signed two high school quarterbacks. Billy Tapp and Michael Herrick. Herrick left the team after one year. Tapp stuck it out through five years as a career backup.
In Houston Nutt's first class, he signed three high school quarterbacks:
Chris Wilkes - 2*
Nathan Stanley - 3*
Randall Mackey - 3*
Things were looking up. Three high school quarterbacks in one class? All of them pursued by other programs? Then the unthinkable happened. Mackey didn't qualify. Wilkes was drafted in the nineteenth round of the MLB draft and took the money. Only Stanley made it to campus. Three years later, he would transfer, having started just one game.
In 2009, Nutt signed Raymond Cotton, a four-star prospect with several other offers. He was a raw passer who had a high ceiling. That's not what Nutt needed. Cotton left the team after his redshirt season. In 2010, we signed no quarterbacks despite having just two on campus.
In 2011, in response to the issue of having two scholarship quarterbacks on campus (a disgruntled Nathan Stanley, a raw Barry Brunetti, and an inaccurate passer in Randall Mackey), Nutt signed a raw junior college player in three-star Zack Stoudt and an even more raw high school quarterback in Maikhail Miller (who didn't join the team until a year later). In Freeze's first class, he signed a junior college quarterback in Bo Wallace.
In the past three years, Ole Miss has signed one high school quarterback. One. Amazingly, we're not in a good situation at the position. That's all likely to change soon though.
High school seniors Devante Kincade (four-star) and Ryan Buchanan (four-star) have, among the two of them, offers from Alabama, Florida, Auburn, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Kansas State, Mississippi State, Minnesota, Texas Tech, and many others. Kincade attended the Elite 11 Finals and posted the highest score on the mental test and the third-fastest time in the forty-yard dash (4.6 seconds). Both are incredibly promising players. Obviously, there's no way to know how successful they will be in college, but a lot of coaches seem to think they'll play well.
It appears we have a coach who finally gets it. You sign junior college players to plug a hole. You sign high school players, particularly quarterbacks, to ensure you don't have that hole again in the future. The only time since Eli Manning that we've had any stability at quarterback was when a former five-star player fell into our laps. We can't continue to hope that happens every year. We have to build quarterbacks ourselves. If Hugh Freeze can do that, he will have this job for a long time. If he can't, he may not last any longer than Nutt.