Matt Corral is currently in San Antonio, competing at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, an all-star showcase of the who’s who in 2018’s class that claims to be the “premier high school All-American game. It features the best 100 players in a classic East vs. West match-up every January. And Ole Miss’ quarterback of the future will represent the Left Coast this Saturday on NBC at 12 p.m. CST.
And in case you’ve missed it, he’s out there throwing darts.
After that, he will pack his bags and head east to report for the spring semester at the University of Mississippi. He will also report for Paul Jackson’s spring strength and conditioning program as well as spring practice.
Then, the question will be raised and will most likely be tossed around until kickoff in Houston in September.
Should Ole Miss redshirt Matt Corral in 2018?
It is quite the luxury to have, a four-star all-everything quarterback who is not only signed, but is going to be on campus early to begin the acclimation process to college, classes, dorm life, the South, football, and everything else that comes with being a college freshman.
But it’s also a detriment at times to have to decide what to do with a talented freshman when you have a returning starter who is undoubtedly the starter for 2018. So let’s take a gander at both sides of the decision, how it could help or hurt the Rebels if they were to let Corral spin it in 2018 or give him a clipboard to hold.
Redshirt him and prepare him to take over in 2019.
He has been compared to Matthew Stafford and Brett Favre by former Super Bowl-winning quarterback and current Elite 11 head coach Trent Dilfer. He’s also been described as a generational talent under center and someone who could be very special. And others have taken notice.
Four-star wide receiver and Ole Miss signee said as much in an interview with Jacksonville’s own radio personality and recruiting analyst Ryan Green.
“I mean, as soon as I knew he was going there, a light bulb went off in my head,” Moore said. “Every receiver’s best friend should be the quarterback.
Not only is he physically ready, but other top-notch croots have taken notice and are willing to choose where they spend the next three-to-four years based on where he goes. Four-star offensive lineman Tyrone Sampson, who is in San Antonio this week as well with Corral, has also mentioned similar sentiments about the quarterback and who it could potentially impact where he decides to go in an interview with Rivals’ Josh Helmholdt.
“I just got in contact with them the day I de-committed,” Sampson said. “I have a real good feeling from them and a real good vibe. I talked to Matt Corral, the QB that is committed there, and he said it is real nice down there and that the coaching staff is 100% real.”
But, with all that said, that’s neither here nor there once you get to college to be honest. Showing others that you’re a baller in high school is much different than doing the same at the next level. And I think Corral knows that. To me, he seems to be a no nonsense, all business type kid who chose the Rebels over Florida simply because of the offense and how it suited him and his skill set.
Phil Longo’s philosophy and Matt Luke’s genuine manner as a players’ coach were also factors in the decision, but Matt seems to have a plan for what he wants to accomplish and he went out and did it.
The 6’2, 196-pounder no doubt already has a stout frame. And Lord knows he’s got the physical and mental tools to execute. But, a redshirt year on the sidelines standing next to Longo, observing Jordan Ta’amu running the show, and most importantly, getting in the weightroom and training room and preparing his body for three-to-four years of SEC football.
In my opinion, the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in the country is on a similar level as former five-star quarterback Shea Patterson coming out of high school, but with more arm talent. And that’s not a knock on Patterson or a dig because he left for Michigan, not many can sling it like Corral.
But, having arm talent and being able to make all the throws is not the same as going through progressions against a SEC defense. Or reading fronts and coverages courtesy of Nick Saban or Will Muschamp. No matter how talented, there is a STEEP learning curve and it would greatly benefit Matt to see that from the sidelines and with his helmet in the locker room somewhere.
The aforementioned acclimation process coupled with playing college football at the Power 5 level is a lot to take on for an 18-year old who is bright-eyed in a brand new city in a brand new state in a brand new region of the country. You save a year of eligibility and can use it as a way to prepare to springboard him into the starting role two seasons from now. And I think Longo and Luke know this and are prepared to have this discussion with Matt once he reports in a few weeks.
But, that doesn’t mean they will.
Let him get his reps in garbage time and be prepared to hit the ground running in 2019.
We all saw the benefits of having a super-talented backup in the wings when Chad Kelly went down in 2016 against Georgia Southern. Patterson was there to take over and had a masterful performance on the road in a huge win over a top 10 Texas A&M team.
Then, he fell flat on his face in Nashville against Vanderbilt and at home against Mississippi State to close out the year.
Could things have been different if Hugh Freeze and Dan Werner let Shea get reps in garbage time? That’s the $1 million question, isn’t it?
Once Corral gets on campus, you begin preparation for him to be the face of your program when Ta’amu’s eligibility runs out. Immediately. Make no bones about it, no matter who you sign in 2019, Corral is the guy once Jordan is gone. Barring injury and/or some wunderkind prospect, he will be the face of Matt Luke’s program for the next few years. So why wait?
Back in 2016, maybe if Shea Patterson had gotten some reps in blowout wins against Wofford, Georgia, or Memphis, maybe he handles things a little better when he faces Vandy and State. Maybe he doesn’t, but at least you throw him out there in the fire and get his feet wet. If you do that with Corral, you’re starting out with very few unknowns in 2019. He will already be accustomed to seeing live defenses, playing in front of huge crowds, and processing what SEC football is like between the ears.
Sure, you’re burning a year of eligibility, but elite prospects are looking to get from point A to point B. The latter point being the NFL. So you approach it that if all goes well, he’s only in Oxford for three years because he’s been a successful quarterback in the Longo Ball system, led you to several wins and bowl games, and put up some good numbers and is a fan favorite. Then, he departs and you begin the process all over again with the next prospect.
This day and age of college football, especially in regards to recruiting, you have to be willing to play the best players as a coach. And if Corral is ready to be tossed to the proverbial wolves, be it in a backup capacity, do it. It will not only prepare him for next season as the starter, but it will also begin the process of building a rapport with his receivers, offensive line, running backs, and the coaching staff.
And hey, look at the bright side, if something bad does happen, you can go back into the pantry and get that redshirt year out and use it. So win, win, right?
I personally think you play him early and often, get him ready to take over when the Flyin’ Hawaiian is gone. To me, with the offense that Longo has implemented and the way Jacob Peeler is recruiting the wide receiver position, Ole Miss should be comfortable enough to play quarterbacks right away because they’re going to keep coming. But, that’s just me.
The one caveat to all of this is if Ta’amu gets his extra year of eligibility that he has requested. If, and that’s a big if, he gets it and Corral wants to hold a clipboard and wear a headset for one year, then by all means fam, do that.
We on the other hand don’t know how Luke is going to handle this particular situation. And I’m not sure we’ll know how they’re planning on handling it anytime soon. But, Luke was on staff when the Kelly-Patterson handoff happened and he saw the pros and the cons of how it unfolded.
Will that factor in to how he handles Corral’s first year? As is everything else, only time will tell.