OXFORD

It’s quite possible that Matt Corral may be just who Ole Miss needs at quarterback for such a time as this.

Corral certainly thinks he is.

With a Chad Kelly-like swagger the idea of failure is completely foreign to a redshirt freshman from California who will make his first college start Saturday at Memphis, a key component in Matt Luke’s ongoing restoration project for Ole Miss football.

Corral was asked at SEC Media Days – where his presence alone says something about the state of Ole Miss football and the fit of his personality for the environment – about being “forced” into a leadership role.

That’s what you want form your quarterback, right? You want him to be the face of the program, to speak with confidence, to share praise when the offense is clicking and answer tough questions when it isn’t.

Matt Corral has done these things in the early going, but it’s August now, the time when everyone is bigger, stronger, faster and optimism reigns. No one has lost a game yet.

“It didn’t really feel like force. I wanted it. That’s part of the reason why I came here,” Corral answered.

Indeed, he could read a roster as well as the next guy and could see the turf of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium as a land of opportunity, a chance to make an impact early.

The Rebels will arrive at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Saturday freed from the bondage of NCAA sanctions, but while scholarship numbers are up – many of them filled with promising young talent – they will still rely heavily on inexperienced players at key positions.

Like quarterback.

Less than a week ago college football’s 150th season began with a redshirt freshman quarterback behind center for Miami, which was in position to upset No. 8 Florida. The Hurricanes couldn’t close the deal, and two days later offensive coordinator Dan Enos publicly criticized his quarterback, Jarren Williams, for inconsistency of play.

Failure is the farthest thing from Corral’s mind right now but maybe not from the minds of football watchers who are a little older.

“Our guys have done as much mentally as I could have hoped at this point,” Ole Miss offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez said. “Putting pressure on Matt to do a certain amount for our offense seems like a lot, but Matt will be prepared for that mentally.”

This is a different transition than when Jordan Ta’amu, in November of 2017, took over an Ole Miss offense with players more experienced and settled in their roles.

Corral will bring arm strength, accuracy and mobility to the position. He appeared in four games last season. That sounds like a significant amount, but if you chart his number of snaps when one of those games was actually in doubt it looks a lot different.

The most important thing Corral brings to the table right now is an attitude of “I can do this.”

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He interacts daily at Ole Miss Discussion w/Parrish Alford on Facebook.

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