August 01, 2010
The Wild Samoan it is then: As expected prior to his campus visit over the weekend, embattled Oregon outcast Jeremiah Masoli is officially packing his bags for Oxford, Miss., and Ole Miss for his final season of eligibility, according to Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples:
[...] Rebels coach Houston Nutt offered Masoli a place on the team, which is down to two scholarship quarterbacks after backup Raymond Cotton decided earlier this month to transfer. Masoli, from Daly City, Calif., will be a walk-on because the Rebels already have reached the NCAA's 85-scholarship limit. [...]
"I'm excited to get another chance," Masoli said on Sunday. "I'm so grateful and thankful."
Nutt said Sunday that Masoli initially made contact with Ole Miss when Cotton was still on the roster. With three scholarship quarterbacks in hand, Nutt told Masoli the Rebels didn't have room for another one. When Cotton left, Nutt reconsidered the possibility. ... "I felt like he needed us a whole lot more than we needed him," Nutt said. "He'll be under the highest of scrutiny."
Masoli enthusiastically confirmed the transfer on his personal website, despite his admitted qualms with the all-consuming Mississippi heat. (A tip from a native, Jeremiah: You'll never "get used to it." Hot is hot.) He'll be eligible to play immediately this season under an NCAA waiver for graduate students. After earning an undergraduate degree in sociology from Oregon earlier this month, Masoli plans to enroll in Ole Miss' graduate Parks and Recreation program, apparently in hopes of becoming the next Ron Swanson.
Insert hand-wringing over the pair of offseason arrests that got Masoli booted from Oregon here. Off the field, Masoli seems smart enough to know he's down to his last chance. On the field, the Rebels are still getting a veteran, former All-Pac-10 quarterback who led his team to at least 37 points in eight of nine Pac-10 games last year, its first outright conference championship since 2001 and its first Rose Bowl since 1995. He led the Ducks' historic humiliation of USC with 386 total yards and two touchdowns on Halloween night. SEC partisans will take great glee in warning "You're gonna get hit now, boy," but based on his career to date, Masoli is immediately the most accomplished signal-caller in the conference going into the season.
Whether that amounts to similar success in Oxford – or even an automatic ascension to the starting job in an entirely new offense, on short notice – is the next big question. The zone read and spread-option sets Masoli rode to stardom at Oregon are a far cry from the more conventional, pro-style sets Ole Miss has run the last two years with pocket-bound slinger Jevan Snead under center (literally under center most of the time, whereas Masoli has worked almost exclusively from the shotgun), and expected to run again this year with new starter Nathan Stanley. Either Masoli – always known more for his legs than his competent-yet-uninspiring arm – will try to adjust to his new surroundings, or Houston Nutt will dust off the old Matt Jones playbook from his days at Arkansas to take advantage of Masoli's wheels and comfort zone. Probably a little of both.
But even if Nutt is right that Masoli needed Ole Miss more than Ole Miss needed Masoli, he must still be doing crazy-eyed cartwheels over the acquisition: When a team picked to finish dead last in its division gets a nearly unprecedented chance to upgrade a red-siren position at the last minute, it's not really a decision. If Ole Miss didn't get better today, it certainly got a lot more interesting.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.
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