CATEGORY: FOC College Football

AUTHOR: PARRIS

HED:Parrish Alford: Rebels may have the best of the inexperienced quarterbacks

If you're looking for proven quarterback play in the Southeastern Conference's Western Division, look in one place.

Baton Rouge.

It exists no place else.

After LSU's Herb Tyler who is 23-5 as a starter there's Clint Stoerner at Arkansas.

Stoerner passed for 2,347 yards last year, but he quarterbacked a team that won four games and got its coach fired.

Elsewhere in the West, Alabama and Auburn will break in new quarterbacks, and, come August, Mississippi State could be doing the same.

No where is the breaking in task viewed with as much anticipation as at Ole Miss.

We'll soon see how one of the most celebrated athletes from Northeast Mississippi Romaro Miller handles major college football.

The inexperience of the sophomore Miller didn't keep Athlon's Southeastern College Football from picking the Rebels second to LSU in the West.

Two other preseason magazines Lindy's and The Sporting News put the Rebels fourth in the division.

It's quarterback instability throughout the West that will make things interesting.

Last week LSU wasn't out front by just a short margin, and the Tigers are still clearly the class of the Western Division.

But with tailback Cecil Collins now removed from the team, the deepest and most talented backfield in America took a big hit.

The absence of Collins makes the Tigers no less formidable in the West.

They do, however, play a more difficult schedule. LSU traded Vanderbilt for Georgia as its rotating Eastern Division opponent and will play Florida in Gainesville in the daytime not on a Saturday night in Baton Rouge.

In chasing the Tigers, the Rebels could have the edge among the inexperienced quarterbacks.

John David Phillips, a converted safety, is the only Alabama quarterback who has played at all, and that experience has come mainly in short-yardage duty. The name of true freshman Tyler Watts has been mentioned more than once.

Whoever takes snaps in Tuscaloosa will do so in a new pass-oriented offense.

Auburn will replace Dameyune Craig with Ben Leard, an inexperienced pocket passer, as coach Terry Bowden seeks to de-emphasize the quarterback and locate a running game that vanished last year.

A change in offense is not something Miller will contend with.

While Miller carried a clipboard more than a football last year, he did gain some experience. He also spent a year in the system and a spring practice of knowing that he is the man.

That will count for something.

So will the Rebels' schedule. They dropped Tennessee and added South Carolina.

If Tommy Tuberville and his Ole Miss coaching staff are as good at molding young talent as some say The Sporting News ranks the Ole Miss staff third best in the SEC the Rebels could repeat their 1997 success.

There's plenty of young talent to be molded in Oxford. There just aren't many seniors four total to help with the molding.

The shackles of probation haven't fallen completely.

The Rebels may show their youth early, but it's late in the season where they'll need to show some age. Two of Ole Miss' last three games are on the road at Arkansas and Georgia before getting State at home in the finale.

That three-game run is preceded by LSU in Oxford Oct. 31.

Parrish Alford is a sports writer for the Daily Journal.

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