They say you cannot judge a book by its cover, but if you look close enough, the cover will tell you a lot – more times than not.
Every team’s approach in college football varies to some degree and what may work for some, may not work for the other and a lot of times a team’s approach tells you a lot about that program, if you look hard enough.
There is no denying the extreme differences between Mississippi State and Ole Miss when you talk about culture, educational opportunities both universities offer and so much more – so it makes sense their approach at quarterback would be different and honestly their approaches embody everything about their respective fan bases, attitudes and more.
For almost ten years, both Mississippi State and Ole Miss have gone opposite directions at the quarterback position – when you talk about approach, recruiting and filling the most important position on the football field.
For both programs, some years their approach paid off – while on other years it hasn’t.
Mississippi State has stayed the course with high school quarterbacks, using the traditional, methodical approach of development, progression and building a “program guy”, for the most part – while Ole Miss has taken the approach of win now, fix the issue now – at all cost, no matter what.
If you don’t believe me let’s just take a look back over the last decade and see. This trend started to take place after Eli Manning graduated from Ole Miss and the Rebels failed to have success with Ethan Flatt and Michael Spurlock back in 2005.
Mississippi State went with the embattled Michael Henig at quarterback, while Ole Miss decided they could not win with Seth Adams. The Bulldogs took their lumps with Henig while the Rebels gambled with Tennessee quarterback Brent Schaeffer who left Knoxville after being suspended from the team following an arrest.
"Per onlineathens.com – He had been charged with misdemeanor assault stemming from a dormitory fight with a student. Schaeffer and receiver Bret Smith were arrested April 10. Part of Schaeffer’s involvement was caught on tape by a video camera in the dorm lobby. A police report said Schaeffer picked up Quantavios Emerson, who had been arguing with Schaeffer’s girlfriend about a cell phone, and threw him to the floor. Smith is also accused of hitting Emerson."
Both teams went on to losing seasons as neither Henig or Schaeffer lived up to expectations.
Mississippi State turned again to Henig and true freshman Wes Carroll to lead the team. The Bulldogs ended the year 8-5 and played in the Liberty Bowl – their first bowl game since the 2000 season.
Ole Miss again went with the Schaeffer and Hinds Community College transfer Seth Adams as the Rebels finished the 2007 season 3-9, ending the Ed Orgeron Era.
The Bulldogs again went with Wes Carroll at quarterback and signed unknown Chris Relf out of the state of Alabama and picked up Golden Triangle junior college quarterback, Tyson Lee. The Bulldogs floundered to a 4-8 record, ending the Sylvester Croom era.
Ole Miss and new coach Houston Nutt went with Texas transfer Jevan Snead, again hoping to throw money on the middle of the roulette wheel and win – this time it worked as the Rebs went 9-4, winning the Cotton Bowl.
Ole Miss stayed with Snead for obvious reasons, again winning nine-games and another Cotton Bowl.
New Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen signed high school phenom Tyler Russell and stuck with Lee and Chris Relf, going 5-7.
Dan Mullen develops Chris Relf into an SEC force, taking the Bulldogs to a nine-win season and a Gator Bowl victory.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and the program again go with yet another transfer at quarterback, this time departed Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
"Per foxsports.com – Jeremiah Masoli was kicked off the team two days after a police officer cited him for marijuana possession and driving infractions. a statement, the university said Masoli was dropped because he did not “adhere to obligations” outlined by coach Chip Kelly. The coach, through a spokesman, declined to comment.A Springfield police officer cited Masoli late Monday on charges of possessing less than one ounce of marijuana, driving with a suspended license and failure to stop when entering a roadway, said Sgt. Tom Borchers of the Springfield Police Department."
The Masoli experiment, much like the Schaffer experiment didn’t end well as the Rebels finished 4-8 during the 2010 football season.
The Bulldogs head to their second straight bowl game behind Relf and Tyler Russell while the Rebels turned to East Mississippi Community College standout Randall Mackey and transfer Barry Brunetti. The Rebs ended the 2011 campaign 2-10, ending the Houston Nutt Era.
Mississippi State secured three more bowl appearances behind developed high school quarterbacks Tyler Russell and Dak Prescott.
Current head coach Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss rolled the dice with journeyman junior college transfer Bo Wallace and it paid off as Wallace made Ole Miss a three year winner.
Moving forward and what we have learned:
What we have seen over the last ten years with both programs is very interesting and again I think it tells you so much about both programs.
Mississippi State looks to be heading into the 2015 season with a cupboard full of signed high school quarterbacks that Dan Mullen and Brian Johnson can continue to develop and play.
Dak Prescott should be back for his senior year, while Damien Williams, Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley wait in the wings, develop and battle for positioning.
Ole Miss did a great job signing Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade two years ago and looked to be heading back towards “high school quarterback development”, and then just two weeks ago courted and signed embattled junior college standout Chad Kelly who is now facing charges in Buffalo, NY after a police scuffle.
What we have seen through the last ten years (minus the coaching changes), is that Miss. State has been able to have six winning seasons through their time, while the Rebels had five – while both having very different approaches to the quarterback position.
This also tells a different story, in that both programs are truly different entities.
Mississippi State has chosen to go the way of “the process” and develop young quarterbacks out of high school which takes time. The Bulldogs have had seven different starters over this time span, with six being high school guys they signed. It’s the blue collar mentality of the majority of their fan base and their university. Hard work pays off down the road.
Since the graduation of Eli Manning, Ole Miss has decided to go the route of “living in the moment” and “win at all cost mentality”, ignoring red flags and taking chances like a Las Vegas gambler on a Saturday night. The Rebels have taken eight transfer quarterbacks with six of those quarterbacks at one time or another having a “run-in” with police or authorities.
This type of recruitment embodies the party atmosphere, the Grove and the “we’re just better than you”, mentality. That’s not a shot at anyone either, as most will tell you they expect to win now and to hell with development or the process.
So where will we go from here? It will be truly interesting as I expect Dak Prescott to return to MSU in 2015 and I expect Chad Kelly to be partaking in spring practice in Oxford in a few months.
I highly doubt Ole Miss cuts Kelly due to his recent activity because they have gotten a reputation of playing high stakes poker with these types of players, yet giving him another shot.
The approaches couldn’t be more different, but then again neither could the two schools and fan bases. It’s Mississippi State and Ole Miss and it will be interesting to watch both teams approach at quarterback develop moving forward.