For most of spring and fall practice, Hugh Freeze has been tight-lipped on who's winning the Ole Miss quarterback competition. But on Tuesday, he let slip that an unnamed someone is separating himself from the pack.
"I kind of have in my mind who's the leader right now," Freeze told The Clarion-Ledger.
Not only that, but this mystery man seems to have pulled away far enough that Freeze is considering naming him the official starter the week of the first game -- a departure from Freeze's suggestion at SEC Media Days that he may wait until the week of the Bama game to make a final decision.
So who is this masked crusader? Chad Kelly, Ryan Buchanan or DeVante Kincade? The only real hints we have come from this statement by Freeze, who continues to refer to our shadowy protagonist simply as "he."
Over the course of 12 practices, he's handled blitzes much better. That may be the ultimate (factor). That's one of the top things you have to look at in a quarterback is how does he handle that?
Is that a time that the ball comes out carelessly or a time that you're setting the protections right and getting yourself protected to throw, standing in there taking a hit, taking care of the ball obviously and being efficient in moving the chains. Twelve practices I think I know who's done that better. I watch closely on the field.
Sure, Freeze probably window dressed that statement to intentionally avoid leaving any real clues, but let's try to read between the lines anyway.
Most of us have long figured that the gig is Kelly's to lose, and that this "competition" was simply a ruse to check his ego and keep him on the #GRIND (and rumors out of practice have all hinted at him pulling away from the other two). But a strong argument could be made that our anonymous He is in fact Buchanan.
By all accounts, Swag Kelly's arm talent is vastly superior to that of Buchanan and Kincade, yet Freeze's distinguishing factor isn't arm strength or accuracy -- it's pre-snap reads.
Don't forget, Freeze named Buchanan the slight leader after the end of spring practice, a lead built on the fact that Buchanan's been in the offensive system longer and is more careful with the ball than Swinging Dick Chad. Freeze intentionally juxtaposes the ball coming out "carelessly" against "setting your protections right." And look at the archetypal game manager phrases Freeze uses: "taking care of the ball" and "being efficient in moving the chains."
This, of course, assumes that Buchanan is indeed the best "game manager" (he couldn't manage shit against Arkansas last year). Maybe Chad has, in addition to being the more talented passer, been better at reading coverages and protecting the ball.
At the end of the day, my money is still on Swaggy C to be behind center when the Rebs head to Tuscaloosa in Week 3. But Freeze's statements have me more skeptical than I was on Monday.
Am I just overanalyzing a few snippets of coach-speak? Absolutely. Do I have anything better to do three weeks out from football season? Absolutely not.