OXFORD – It’s one thing to have a freshman quarterback who might play a key role on your team.
It’s another thing to have a quarterback room where almost every player – whether scholarship or walk-on – is a freshman.
That’s what Ole Miss offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez faces this season.
“They’ve grown up in about four weeks, so they’re four weeks older. I told them from Day 1 that I cannot afford to coach them like freshmen as far as like ‘You’re going to be redshirted, stay in the shadows and learn what you can and be ready in a year.’ We can’t do that.”
Matt Corral, the starter, is a redshirt freshman and has the advantage of having appeared in four games last season.
His job was not contested in camp. The competition has been for the backup spot with the focus on three quarterbacks signed in the 2019 class – John Rhys Plumlee, Grant Tisdale and Kinkead Dent.
The season’s first depth chart does not include Dent, a 6-foot-4 pocket passer, who missed some time in camp with a concussion.
It lists Plumlee first and Tisdale second though it reads either Plumlee “or” Tisdale could be the first in the game after Corral.
“We have to get them ready to play right now. I’ve had to teach them or coach them like they’ve been second or third or fourth-year players. All those guys, I’ve been really impressed with their intelligence from a football standpoint and from a maturity, off-the-field standpoint. We knew a little bit of that from recruiting them, but you never really know until you start getting into the nuts and bolts of practice, throwing schemes at them,” said Rodriguez, who is also the quarterbacks coach.
Not only are the scholarship quarterbacks freshmen, but so are most of the walk-ons. Sellers Shy, of Memphis University School, and Brice Johnson, of Greenville Saint Joseph, are freshmen.
The outlier in the group is Grant Restmeyer, a junior from McKinney, Texas, who has appeared in one game.
Rodriguez said camp went well.
“Sometimes I have to step back and realize these guys are just 18, 19 years old, true freshmen. Again, I’ve got to coach them as they’re veteran players and have been around a little bit, because they’ve got to respond that way, and they’ve really reacted well to that.”