Earlier this week, new Ole Miss offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez was asked about the possibility of pursuing a transfer quarterback, given that none of the guys on his new roster have ever logged a college start.
“The lack of depth is only a little bit of a concern just because of the experience,” Rich Rod told 247’s David Johnson. “We signed a couple of really talented guys and you’ve got Matt [Corral]. Anytime you have a chance to help your program with the right guy... you at least look into... I don’t think any transfer you bring should be any kind of indication at that position.”
Rich Rod’s teams have always been known for good, running quarterbacks. While he has definitely succeeded in his few stints with passers (namely Anu Solomon, who threw for over 3,000 yards in both of his seasons at Arizona), Rodriguez’s offenses are at their best with elite runners handling the ball. Most of us first heard about Rich Rod when he was pairing Pat White and Steve Slaton to create a terrifying running duo at West Virginia. Later, he built Khalil Tate into a longshot Heisman contender at Arizona.
At Ole Miss, he inherits Matt Corrall, a former four-star who showed flashes of elite ability during limited playing time last season, and incoming freshman Grant Tisdale, a three-star who signed with the Rebels last month. Both players have immense talent but lack experience.
So the question is: should Ole Miss make a move in the transfer market or focus on the development of its young talent?
Jalen Hurts is on the open market.
Hurts, of course, is a familiar name to Ole Miss fans, having helped lead the Crimson Tide to two national title appearances. He’s not an exceptional passer but can cause nightmares on the ground, and that may be just what Rodriguez needs in his first season at the helm.
This week, Hurts announced he would be seeking a transfer, and teams are likely lining up for his services. Like Tate, he would be immediately eligible as a graduate transfer, and it’s easy to see how helpful he could be in navigating an SEC schedule.
If the Rebels are looking for an experienced, talented running quarterback, Hurts may be the guy.
Khalil Tate might also be looking around.
Tate was a rumored transfer in November before stating he had recommitted himself to Arizona. But now that Rich Rod is coaching again, would Tate again consider transferring?
As a sophomore in Rodriguez’s system, Tate passed for 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns while running for another 1,400 and 12 touchdowns. He was a dynamic playmaker on a team that just wasn’t very good. With Kevin Sumlin coming in to replace Rodgriguez, Tate was hyped up over the offseason, with many wondering if he’d be the next Johnny Manziel.
He wasn’t. Under Sumlin, Tate’s passing and efficiency went up (he threw for 2,500 yards and 26 touchdowns to just eight interceptions) but his rushing numbers plummeted. He only carried the ball 74 times for around 200 yards and two touchdowns. The Wildcats went 5-7, losing to BYU and Houston.
Under Rich Rod, could Tate recapture that electrifying running style that made him a name in the college football landscape?
What about the guys already on the roster?
I sought some perspective from RCR contributor Whiskey Wednesday, who offered good reasoning on why seeking transfers could be a bad move.
If Ole Miss has been truly, consistently awful at one thing over the past 15 years, it’s been developing high school quarterbacks into multi-year starters. Even during the program’s historic highs, the QB position was a revolving door of transfers, both incoming and outgoing. And while the quick-fix QBs that worked out (Chad Kelley and Bo Wallace) are still relatively fresh on our minds, the ones that didn’t work out are much more common.
With the new redshirt rules in place, Ole Miss fans had the unique opportunity to see the program’s quarterback of the future while maintaining his redshirt status. Corral, ranked the No. 4 pro-style QB in the 2018 recruiting class, was up and down in his limited freshman action but showed plenty of arm talent and running ability (not to mention the kind of fire in his belly that might be just what the program needs right now).
To take a grad transfer QB and anoint him as the starter would send a strange, inconsistent message to a program in desperate need of buy-in from its players, and equally in need of something to build for the future. Corral’s valuable game experience, the competency he’s demonstrated, and his four years of eligibility provide just that foundation. Sticking with his cannon arm over the superior running ability of a Tate or a Hurts would also show Ole Miss’ continued commitment to the passing game. If Matt Luke and co. want to continue to recruit wide receivers at a high level, they’ll need to demonstrate that commitment.
It’s true that winning cures all, and maybe a dynamic transfer quarterback wins Luke more games in 2019. But for a program as volatile as Ole Miss, developing multi-year starters provides stability and a higher floor, which may be most advantageous in the medium to long term.
It comes down to the mindset of this coaching staff and Corral’s psyche.
Taking a transfer at quarterback is a win-now approach to roster management. It’s the move you make if you feel like you have to make some noise this season to maintain momentum or your job.
It can still be a good long-term decision, but that’s only really the case if Corral is fine with sitting during most of his redshirt freshman season. Given quarterback trends around the country right now, I’m not sure that’s likely. Quarterbacks generally want to start now, and I can’t imagine he would react well to having a near certain starting job taken from him by a transfer.
I have no idea if the coaches are considering taking a transfer, but if they are there are tough decisions looming.