OXFORD — Ole Miss exited the spring without naming a backup quarterback, and with coach Hugh Freeze indicating the decision may actually extend into the 2014 season.
That’s by design, because Freeze and co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Dan Werner want redshirt freshmen DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan competing against each other for as long as possible.
“They’re competitors, so they’ll try to outdo one another,” Werner said.
That’s been the case since the two signed in February 2013: Buchanan an in-state kid that had offers from every SEC school, Kincade an Elite 11 quarterback from Dallas. One of them is going to be the starter in 2015, after Bo Wallace graduates, and both know only one can have that job.
“It’ll be real fun competing with him,” Kincade said. “We go back and forth, back and forth. We help each other out, pat each other on the back and tell each other our mistakes and things like that.”
Said Buchanan: “It’s coaches’ decision whether it’s close or not. I feel like it’s close. (Kincade) is a really good quarterback, so I just got to go out everyday and it’s on my mind: I got to play great everyday and do my best to impress the coaches. They’re going to decide that.”
They got 15 practices, including the Grove Bowl, this spring in which they, for the first time, really got to play football. Freeze even pulled the green no-contact jerseys off both midway through, in an effort to see how they would handle live snaps.
“I look forward to watching film between Ryan and DeVante,” Freeze said. “They both do different things. Ryan has some natural pocket presence that’s hard to teach. He’ll hang in there and knows where it’s supposed to be. You saw Kincade do a lot of things with his feet. He’s got a strong arm.”
Now comes the time, Werner said, where they have to work on their own and get better.
“The rule is I’m not allowed to sit in there with them, so they have to do it on their own,” Werner said. “I expect them, in basketball terms, to be a gym rat. You got to want it all day long. So you come over (to the Manning Center), you got to lift, you got to run, and then you got to come in and watch film and then you got to throw.”
OXFORD — Ole Miss has already finished its spring, but in this week’s Five for Friday I talk a little about what the offseason may entail and also preview this weekend’s series against Mississippi State.
My story on Ole Miss’ sudden power surger, and what has led to it, can be found here.
OXFORD — This spring was not easy for co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Matt Luke.
Ole Miss lost three starters and five total contributors from last season’s offensive line, and not all the replacements (Fahn Cooper, Aaron Morris and Rod Taylor) were ready this spring. One, Christian Morris, may be headed towards a redshirt year after offseason surgery.
Which meant Luke had to make do with what he has. But at the end of Saturday’s Grove Bowl, coach Hugh Freeze said he was happy with the offensive line’s improved performance over the course of spring and gave the credit to Luke.
“Matt has done a great job,” Freeze said. “We’re still without Christian (Morris) and Aaron (Morris). We’re playing quite a few walk ons in the two-deep. I really have seen kids like Robert Conyers and Ben Still improve, Austin Golson, who had a really good day today at tackle. Everybody knows about Laremy (Tunsil), Justin Bell, Davion Johnson and Daronte Bouldin. Those guys play really hard. They love it.”
Luke, co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said, simply “gets those guys ready, whoever happens to be in there.”
Of particular interest this August will be who emerges at center, where Evan Swindall was a three-year center and an underrated key of Ole Miss’ success on offense the last two seasons. Junior Ben Still and redshirt sophomore Robert Conyers competed all spring to replace Swindall. Still is a natural center, and has the advantage when it comes to snapping the ball. But Conyers, a converted tackle, is athletic and is improving with his ball placement.
Bell could also get a shot at center — he’s been seen several times this spring snapping the ball before practice — but Luke said he is moving forward right now with Bell as a guard and just Still and Conyers at center.
OXFORD — Noted college football preview guru Phil Steele predicts that Ole Miss will be ranked No. 20 in the preseason AP poll this summer.
Steele, talking to ESPN, released what he believes the preseason poll will look like. He claims getting 25-of-25 last year correct, and is known for his volumnious college football preview magazine each fall.
Ole Miss finished 8-5 last season and was 33rd in the final AP poll, but the Rebels return 16 starters and 60 lettermen off that team. Steele said he pays particular attention to quarterback, where Bo Wallace will be a three-year starter for the Rebels, as well as other returning skill position talent.
The SEC is not at No. 1 in Steele’s projection: that’s defending national champion Florida State. But Alabama is No. 2, followed by Auburn (4), South Carolina (10), Georgia (11), LSU (13), Missouri (18), Texas A&M (19) and Ole Miss.
The Rebels will play four of those teams this fall, with both Alabama and Auburn coming to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Ole Miss will travel to LSU and Texas A&M. All four games are within a month’s time, from Oct. 4-Nov. 1.