Spring practice for Ole Miss football should have occurred approximately 17 months ago, give or take, and during that time, the status of the quarterback position would have been of significant interest for fans and first-year head coach Lane Kiffin.
Unfortunately, there was no spring preview of the quarterbacks or any opportunity to get answers about a likely starter or engage in WILD speculation, which would’ve fueled us well into June. Instead, the season is scheduled to start in a little over month, and Ole Miss has just started the process of solving its quarterback situation.
If you recall, and how could you not summon that trauma immediately, the 2019 season ended with the quarterback hierarchy in a state of anarchy.
When starter Matt Corral was injured against California, John Rhys Plumlee took over and proved to be a dynamic runner, but his inability to pass effectively was a problem that eventually stalled the Ole Miss offense. Because of Plumlee’s passing woes, once Corral was healthy, we saw a mix of the two, primarily against non-crap teams when Ole Miss was forced into passing situations.
Plumlee started the final game of 2019, but it was Corral on the field for the final two possessions because Ole Miss had to throw. It seemed as though Matt Luke and Rich Rodriguez wanted to Plumlee to be the guy, but they knew the offense couldn’t survive without injections of Corral.
Fortunately, thanks to Keith Carter making moves, Luke and Rodriguez don’t get to sort out that conflict. The job now falls on Kiffin, who also talked Grant Tisdale into returning from the transfer portal hinterland and has redshirt freshman Kinkead Dent and true freshman Kade Renfro in the mix.
With fall practice underway, Kiffin is getting his first live look at his quarterbacks. As he TURNS ON THE TAPE, BOB, and tries to evaluate his options, let’s review what we know, kinda know, and don’t know about the Ole Miss quarterbacks.
What We Know
Here are the quarterbacks listed on Ole Miss’ official roster (in numerical order):
- Matt Corral (2)
- John Rhys Plumlee (10)
- Kinkead Dent (12)
- Grant Tisdale (14)
- Kade Renfro (20)
Let’s break it down player by player.
He has the arm strength to spin it clear across the Mississippi River and the most passing experience and success among the quarterbacks. However, his completion percentage in non-mop-up duty is 59 percent, which is 5 YIKES out of 5 YIKES.
The good news is he only threw three interceptions in 178 attempts, which comes out to a pick every 59 attempts. However, there was never a degree of consistency that prevented coaches and fans from having wandering eyes over the quarterbacks on the sideline.
He’s a good athlete who is at least a threat to run, and it turns out he has a top end speed of you driving down a residential street.
John Rhys Plumlee
Our ivory-tickling son is John Avery fast and arguably the most devastating open-field runner* to ever play at Ole Miss, but his passing game abilities are, AHEM, lacking. The last touchdown pass he threw in the 2019 season came on October 12th against Missouri. There were five more games after that with zero touchdown passes, which, according to the experts, is not ideal.
*Seriously, fam, this is something we’ve never seen before.
But, as you just watched, he can dump garbage on defenses with his ability to create explosive plays through his speed and vision. Granted, those LSU highlights started after LSU led 28-0 in the first half, but in 9 games, he ran for over 1,000 yards, scored 12 touchdowns, and averaged 6.6 yards per carry. Acceptable!
However, his passing game struggles allowed Corral to get back on the field. When Plumlee was on the field, Ole Miss was one dimensional and predictable.
Redshirted last season, the former Sheffield Drive passer did not see the field, but we did see him in the 2019 Grove Bowl. Spring games are trash, but my recollection of his performance was he looked like he knew what he was doing, which is what coaches prefer over the four-seconds-of-panic approach.
Dent winning the job would be a tilted head, quizzical look, do what now surprise, but 2020 has decided that we should, in the words of Dalton from Road House, expect the unexpected.
If the competition were about who can throw a beautiful garbage time touchdown against Alabama to cover the spread, Tisdale would have this competition LOCKED UP.
Again, garbage time and all, but what a throw.
Shout-out to Renfro for going with the number 20 jersey. Much like a former quarterback with a helicopter parent doing the same, it will make people mad over something stupid, which we love to see.
Unfortunately for Renfro, a true freshman, he’s likely not a an option in this year’s quarterback competition. He’s probably headed to a redshirt (or maybe not if this year doesn’t count toward total eligibility; I have not read the fine print on the NCAA’s decision) and the scout team where he will make Ole Miss defensive coaches mad at their defense.
What We Kinda Know
While we documented Corral’s inefficiency earlier, we may have identified one of the reasons behind it:
“We understand why we’re doing what we’re doing as a quarterback room. We know why we’re reading the single-side safety. We know why, when they go three-down, we have to read the C gap. Just having an understanding of why we’re doing things and why we’re calling the plays and where the coaches want the ball.”
Not understanding what you’re doing and only doing it because Rich Rod is hollerin’ at you to do it is not the best approach but understandable for a young player. With a deeper understanding of the offense, plus his quotes about this being the hardest he’s worked since high school, we could possibly see a significant jump in Corral’s performance, which may have started with last Saturday’s scrimmage.
John Rhys Plumlee
If you’ve talked to a guy who’s talked to a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy, you’ve likely heard that Plumlee’s passing abilities have dramatically improved. To what degree they have improved we don’t know for certain, but he hasn’t been whisked away to another position and is sharing the majority of first team reps with Corral, which indicates there is some belief in his ability to be an effective quarterback.
While clearly behind Corral and Plumlee in the depth chart power rankings, this trio is at least being prepared to run the offense if called upon. Whether that means there will be a comfort level among the coaches to let them run 25 to 50 percent of the offense or most of it, who knows!
What We Don’t Know
If your wireless router goes down or your company’s server crashes, could Matt Corral have you back up and running in no time?
Maybe, but we don’t know!
And is he making a run at Dr. Bo’s flow?
John Rhys Plumlee
Does he use this [insert video conferencing brand of your choice; NO FREE ADS] background in all his meetings?
While we don’t know, let’s assume so.
What are their answers to the question that is most important to the Red Cup Rebellion dot com brand - is a hot dog a sandwich?
Perhaps one of the COWARDS who covers the Ole Miss beat will find the courage to ask this important question so we can clean up the What We Don’t Know section of this post.