The University of Mississippi has the papers.
Is Houston Nutt thinking clearly enough to say no?
That question could be answered very soon, as the Ole Miss football coach decides what to do about former University of Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
Masoli, who was dismissed from the Oregon football team June 9 after being arrested twice in six months, is looking for a school where he can use his final year of eligibility. Nutt confirmed to The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., that Masoli had sent his release to Ole Miss. It is unclear if Masoli sent his release to Mississippi State, a school he has been rumored to be interested in, or to any other institutions.
Masoli has the experience to make coaches stop and think. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound quarterback played one year at City College of San Francisco before moving on to Oregon. He led the Ducks to 10-3 records the past two seasons, and earned a spot on the coaches” second-team All-Pacific 10 squad after going 177 of 305 for 15 touchdowns and six interceptions last season. He also rushed for 668 yards and 13 touchdowns, and is the school”s all-time rushing leader among quarterbacks (1,386 yards).
Those numbers could make Ole Miss fans forget about Jevan Snead pretty quickly.
Snead had a breakout season in 2008, leading Ole Miss to nine wins and a victory in the Cotton Bowl. But Snead struggled as a junior last season, throwing 20 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. The Rebels still won nine games and a second consecutive Cotton Bowl, but Snead passed up his final year of eligibility.
The Rebels” quarterback situation scrambled even more Saturday when redshirt quarterback Raymond Cotton, who was No. 2 on the depth chart, announced he was leaving school. The decision apparently surprised Nutt, who Friday at Southeastern Conference Media Days said he hoped to convince Cotton to think about his decision and be patient that things would work out at Ole Miss.
Now Nutt has a decision to make. Does he have enough confidence in sophomore Nathan Stanley and former East Mississippi Community College All-American Randall Mackey?
Both are unproven commodities, which makes coaches very nervous, especially ones whose team has been picked to finish last this season in the SEC Western Division.
But Stanley has potential, as does Mackey, the former EMCC standout. Mackey is a wizard with the football, but Nutt is on record for saying JUCO players don”t often make an impact in their first seasons in the SEC.
Without a proven running back and wide receiver due to the graduation of Dexter McCluster and Shay Hodge, a new quarterback, and a new co-offensive coordinator (Dave Rader), a lot figures to change this season in Oxford. That is a potentially deadly combination for Nutt, who can”t dismiss the departure of Cotton because of the uncertainty surrounding his running game and receiving corps.
Nutt also can”t be sure of what the Rebels would get if Masoli joins their program, even though NCAA rules would allow Masoli to be eligible immediately at any Division I-A program if he enrolls in a graduate program Oregon does not offer.
But Nutt has to consider the fact that Masoli in March began serving a yearlong probation after pleading guilty to a second-degree burglary charge. Oregon coach Chip Kelly suspended Masoli for the season after the incident but allowed him to retain his scholarship. He said Masoli would be permitted to return to the team in 2011 if he abided by team rules.
But Masoli was arrested in June for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, driving with a suspended license, and failing to stop. The mistake resulted in his permanent dismissal from Oregon”s football team.
Masoli has paid his fines, completed his community service requirements associated with the burglary charge, has finished his undergraduate course work at Oregon, and has taken the GRE, which could be the final step before he enters graduate school.
All that is left is to find a place to play football.
There are too many negatives for Nutt, MSU coach Dan Mullen, or anyone, for that matter, to allow Masoli onto their team this season. The timing stinks. Masoli would be hard-pressed to join any program and learn its offense. It also would be highly unlikely Masoli would pick a school and then sit out a full season.
Adding Masoli to a team also would send the wrong message to quarterbacks already on the roster. If Nutt has any doubts whether Stanley or Mackey can do the job, he should have had more insurance in place to protect against transfers or injuries. Saying yes to Masoli would affect the confidence of both quarterbacks and create a controversy the team doesn”t need.
Everyone deserves a second chance. For Masoli, this could be a third or fourth shot, but that isn”t uncommon in sports. His skills likely will be enough for a coach to take a chance on him.
But Nutt should realize adding Masoli isn”t the way to go. It”s too big of a risk to take, even for a coach who gained notoriety for his “Wild Rebel” offense.
Adam Minichino is sports editor of The Dispatch. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.