With just two scholarship quarterbacks returning to Ole Miss’ 2017 roster, three-star Virginia native Alex Faniel’s letter of intent likely elicited a sigh of relief from the Rebel coaching staff. The No. 27-ranked pro-style quarterback and No. 18-ranked player in the state of Virginia has been firmly committed to the Rebels since June. At the time, he explained to Scout’s Ben Garrett that he “didn’t have to think about what I was doing at all... and committed on the spot” after receiving his Ole Miss offer.
According to GridironNow, Alex’s dad attended the University of Alabama, and the opportunity to play in the SEC had a big impact on his decision to join the Rebs. The Rebels beat out in-state powers Virginia and Virginia Tech in landing Faniel. While he wasn’t the coaching staff’s first choice, (Freeze and company missed out on four-stars Tristan Gebbia, Tua Tagovailoa, and Myles Brennan), the Samoan signal-caller nonetheless brings much-needed depth to the QB position.
How he fits in
Faniel has the measurables you want in a quarterback, standing 6’5, 225 lbs. with a big arm and strong accuracy on his deep ball. And while he doesn’t have the rushing ability of a traditional Hugh Freeze backup (he ran for 312 yards as a senior), Faniel does show some impressive athleticism. His high school team seems to have loved rolling him toward the sidelines, where he shows solid accuracy throwing on the run. That could be important: Freeze’s playbook will be changing to allow new starter Shea Patterson to make plays outside the pocket, which means the play calling wouldn’t need to change drastically if Faniel were to enter.
Of course, the Rebels are hoping that won’t happen in 2017. Sophomore Jason Pellerin will likely serve as Patterson’s primary backup, which, barring injuries, should allow Faniel to sit through a redshirt year. But come 2018, Faniel could find himself competing for the No. 2 gig. Pellerin’s superior running ability should keep him locked in as the change-of-pace quarterback that Freeze loves to use, but were Patterson ever forced to come out of a game, Faniel might be able to establish himself as the better replacement.