Posted by Jerry Hinnen
It won't be a surprise to anyone who noticed Houston Nutt's plan to suspend Randall Mackey in the wake of the junior's disorderly conduct arrest, but Nutt made it official Tuesday night all the same: West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti will be the Rebels' starting quarterback when Nutt's team opens the season against BYU.
But according to this report from the Clarion-Ledger, Brunetti shouldn't feel too comfortable just yet. Nutt also said that pocket-passing JUCO transfer Zack Stoudt would see time against the Cougars, and that Brunetti's ascension to the starter's role for Game 1 doesn't mean he's guaranteed the same for Game 2 against FCS Southern Illinois.
That said, Mackey's arrest has clearly given Brunetti a substantial leg up. A top dual-threat quarterbacking recruit in the class of 2010, Brunetti spent one year in Morgantown, appearing in four games. But the Memphis product elected to transfer closer to home to help his ailing mother, and earned a waiver from the NCAA to skip the usual penalty year. Thanks to that decision, a productive spring camp, and Brunetti's Jeremiah Masoli-like skill-set, Nutt said over the summer that Brunetti entered the fall with a slight edge on his competition.
That edge now appears to be a more substantial one, and the BYU game represents a golden opportunity for Brunetti to make it even more decisive. The big question regarding Brunetti's play will be his poise in the pocket and throwing accuracy, and the combination of the Rebels' veteran pass protectors (including senior All-SEC left tackle Bradley Sowell) and the Cougars' rebuilding secondary (three starters gone, including two All-Mountain West performers) should give him plenty of chances to make plays in the passing game.
But if he doesn't, it's clear that Stoudt will be ready to take advantage, and despite being in Nutt's doghouse -- "You have to think. The bottom line is it was not a good decision made," Nutt said -- Mackey will have the chance to work his way back into the mix if the other two struggle. Brunetti is the clear victor this week from Mackey's mistake, but we doubt seriously this will be the last time we write about the Ole Miss quarterbacking depth chart this fall.