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Ole Miss football 2020 preview: Quarterback

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Will we get a two-quarterback system?

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Mississippi Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the off-season, spring, AND fall camps being affected by COVID-19, college football is back, and the Ole Miss Rebels kick things off September 26th against the Florida Gators. Until then, we are going to dive into the position groups and what we expect from them during this 10-game abbreviated schedule.

There is undoubtedly no position quite as scrutinized as the quarterback — the ball is in their hands nearly every offensive play, every mistake or success magnified, so of course, the Cup will kickoff its position previews under center with the quarterbacks.

Redshirt sophomore Matt Corral is — by all early indications — the favorite to win the job in fall camp. New offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby not only really likes to push tempo, but he loves to take shots downfield and stretch the defense vertically as does head coach Lane Kiffin. Corral obviously has the arm talent to do this, and sources believe he is the odds-on favorite to start against the Gators in a few weeks.

Last season, Corral played in 10 games and navigated around an injury while throwing for 1,362 yards and six touchdowns. He completed close to 60% of his passes, but Rich Rodriguez’s offense wasn’t exactly passing game friendly, so obviously this strategy affected the QB rotation when it came to play calling and rhythm.

That will no longer be the case in 2020 with Lebby and Lane Kiffin in charge of things.

Fighting for the job with Corral is sophomore John Rhys Plumlee. The Hattiesburg, Miss. native set the SEC and college football world on fire last year when he replaced an injured Corral versus Cal and never looked back.

All he did was run for 1,105 yards and 12 touchdowns while also throwing for 910 yards and four touchdowns (seems good?). Plumlee thrived in Rodriguez’s run-first, zone-read scheme, but with the coaching regime change, there comes a learning curve in a new offensive playbook. Despite Plumlee’s elite wheels, his inability to throw it downfield accurately and efficiently has put him behind the proverbial eight ball heading into the opener, according to reports from fall practice.

But, you can’t scoff at the game-breaking speed and elusiveness in the open field, which I do anticipate Kiffin and Lebby using in some way. Maybe it is in certain packages or situations, but Plumlee is too explosive not to get some kind of action or look with the football in his hands.

So who is behind Corral and Plumlee? The name I hear the most is true freshman Kade Renfro.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder from Stephenville, Tex. has impressed early and looks the part. Renfro threw for for 2,372 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior in 2019, but it’s been his foot speed that has caught the staff’s eye early on.

With Corral and Plumlee taking the bulk of the snaps with the ones, I anticipate Renfro getting some looks in garbage time, especially since the NCAA declared this season would not cost anyone a year of eligibility.

I fully anticipate No. 2 trotting out with the first-team offense on Sept. 26 to take the first snap, but, much like this season, there will be a ton of intrigue and nuance when it comes to the quarterback position. Corral seemingly possesses the skill set and style Kiffin and Lebby want, but Plumlee is far too explosive and talented to leave on the sideline for the entire season barring mop-up duty.

One thing is certain, the Rebels will have options at the signal caller position and the ability to attack the defense in many ways and from all angles.