DeVante Kincade has been the forgotten man in the Ole Miss quarterback competition, sitting at a distant third while Chad Kelly and Ryan Buchanan battled it out in spring and fall practice. On Monday, Freeze all but confirmed that Swaggy C will be his starter, and it's safe to assume Buchanan will nestle into the backup spot. But don't go feeling sorry for Kincade -- Freeze's tendency to use athletic quarterbacks off the bench in packaged plays means that barring an injury to Kelly, Switchblade will almost certainly see more time of the field than Buchanan this season.
Just ask Barry Brunetti.
It's easy to forget that Bo Wallace actually had to fight through a quarterback competition with Brunetti in 2012. Brunetti, who transferred over from West Virginia, lost that battle and spent the next two years at the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. But he wasn't just holding kicks and toting clipboards -- Freeze, not wanting Brunetti's athleticism to idle on the sideline, frequently plugged him in as a read-option threat, particularly near the goal line.
During his junior and senior seasons, Brunetti threw for 490 yards and seven touchdowns while running for another 587 yards and seven more scores. And those aren't just garbage time stats -- 49 percent of his combined 197 passing and rushing attempts during those two seasons came when the score was within 17 points.
Brunetti averaged over eight touches per game in his last two seasons (about five per SEC game), and I wouldn't be surprised to see Kincade getting a similar workload in 2015. So let's pull out the tape and see what Brunetti can teach us about how Freeze may use Kincade this season.
A slashing threat in the read option
Freeze's entire offense is built around the read option, where the quarterback reads an unblocked edge defender and either hands off to a back, runs it himself or pulls up for a pop-pass. Dr. Bo was surprisingly effective at running it despite his mediocre athleticism, but Freeze preferred to let Brunetti take over in certain situations.
A speedy back (in the above case Jeff Scott; this season it'll be Jaylen Walton) pulls the safety and linebacker wide, giving Brunetti (after a nice cut block by a pulling guard on the defensive end) an embarrassingly open avenue to the end zone. If the defense respects Brunetti's running ability and stays home, he can make the handoff to Scott and let him sweep outside and turn the corner.
Expect to see Kincade and Walton running variations of that play a lot this season.
A dangerous play action passer near the goal line
When Brunetti trotted onto the field in the red zone, defenses naturally assumed he was going to run (after all, he ran the ball 16 percent more often than he threw it during his Ole Miss career). They sold out to stop the read option by bringing safeties down into the box ... and were caught with their pants down when Brunetti pulled the ball out of the running back's chest and flipped it over their heads.
In the play above, the play action fake brings the strong safety and Mike linebacker crashing hard toward the line of scrimmage. Brunetti pulls up and floats the ball over their heads to Evan Engram, who dummies a block on the edge rusher before sneaking behind the secondary.
By the way, don't think Freeze is scared to let Kincade rip it downfield on play action. Switchblade may not have the arm talent to beat out Chad Kelly, but he can still sling the pigskin.
A mobile threat on the bootleg
Another favorite play of Freeze's was having Brunetti fake the handoff to get the defense moving one way, then roll out to the opposite flat, where defenders faced an awkward decision between playing the run threat or leaving their assigned receiver.
Here's the play that gave the Rebs an early lead against LSU in 2013.
LSU actually plays sound defense, with the defensive end staying outside to chase Brunetti and the safety undercutting the H-back's route in the flat. But you can tell the safety is concerned about Brunetti turning the corner on the DE and breaking toward the end zone -- there's just enough trepidation at the end of the play to open up a throwing lane to Nick Parker.
Hell, work in the ole option pitch while you're at it
Check out this nifty play call:
Sucking the defense in with an inside fake to Jordan Wilkins then making them pick between Kincade and Jaylen Walton on the outside would be all kinds of fun.
And if nothing else, Kincade's presence should mean we don't have to see any more Big Lig passes.