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Spring Storylines: The Backup Quarterback Battle

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At least three Rebels have been mentioned as candidates to back up incumbent starter Bo Wallace.

Who will back this guy up?
Who will back this guy up?

The race to see who takes snaps as a backup to Bo Wallace will be an interesting thing to monitor these next few weeks. As we saw last year with the involvement of Barry Brunetti, there is a legitimate role for the backup quarterback in this offense, and it's pivotal to have a second player who can get out there when Wallace needs a breather or is injured. There are three former four-star quarterbacks battling for the spot, and they have very different attributes from one another.

Redshirt Freshman Devante Kincade appears to be the front-runner. Kincade, who is 6'0" and weighs 200 pounds, has been called both cerebral and athletic as a quarterback. He's a smart athlete who reads defenses well, particularly in the running game. At the Elite 11 competition last season, Kincade scored the highest of any player on a mock Wonderlic test. His high school film shows great instincts as a runner and good touch on the ball when throwing. The only weaknesses I noticed from Kincade's highlights were his lack of significant arm strength and propensity to make throws that tested high school safeties. Going against more adept defenders, I'm concerned those passes may have been picked off. Of course, it's likely Kincade made those attempts knowing that the safeties were of lesser caliber.

Here's his high school film. As you can see, he had to rear back a good bit to get much on his throws, though gaining 15-20 pounds of muscle, which he has done, could certainly alleviate that problem. Early reports are that arm strength hasn't been an issue, but I can really only go based on what I've seen. I haven't ever seen Kincade throw in person, so take that for what it's worth.

Kincade has a great shot at the job because he offers a running ability that made Barry Brunetti valuable to the team. He makes great reads in the option game, and his cuts are decisive.

The other redshirt freshman vying for the job is Jackson Prep alum Ryan Buchanan. Buchanan had offers from school all around the South, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Oklahoma State, and others. He's listed at 6'3" 201 pounds, and Buchanan is a skilled passer. He shows good zip and placement on throws. He can run, but that's never likely to be a major asset for him. That being said, I think people have written him off too quickly. Several tough throws in his highlight video almost look effortless to him. Buchanan was a relative unknown until he began attending camps and blew up. There's a reason schools liked him once they saw what he could do facing good competition.

The biggest reason I think Buchanan isn't likely to be the primary backup this season is that he doesn't really offer much that Bo Wallace doesn't already possess. Sure, maybe his deep ball is better, but what are you going to do? Put him in the game when you have to throw deep? I also think it will likely take a while for him to adjust to the speed of the game. I haven't seen him in practice to know whether that's accurate, but it's a bigger step coming from a Missisippi private school than a high division public school in Dallas, Texas (like Kincade). Also, whle Buchanan isn't slow, running isn't ever going to be his big thing.

The unknown is sophomore Jeremy Liggins. It hasn't been determined where the 6'3" 296 pound Lafayette High product will end up. Most people think he's too big to play quarterback, but tell that to this guy.

Before anyone gets confused, let me point out that is not Jeremy Liggins. It's former Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen. Anyway, Liggins may end up playing tight end or defensive end, but he's going to get a look at quarterback after transferring to from junior college to Ole Miss in January. You can watch Liggins' juco tape here. Suffice it to say, he's big. He's the most different from Wallace of all three quarterbacks in that he's huge and actually pretty fast. If there's one gimmick quarterback in this group, it may be Liggins. Perhaps they'll install a package or two for him. We'll know soon.