For the first time in the Hugh Freeze era at Ole Miss, Dr. Bo/Good Bo/Bad Bo Wallace won’t be the starting quarterback for the Rebels.
Wallace set six school records in his three years in Oxford, including total offense (10,478 yards) and completion percentage (63%), and second to only Eli Manning in passing yards (9,534), touchdowns (62), completions (747) and pass attempts (1,186).
More importantly, he led the Rebels to a program-defining victory over Alabama in 2014, defeated rival Mississippi State and made it to a New Year’s Six bowl game.
But now Freeze and the Rebels must rely on one of three signal callers jockeying to replace Wallace: former backups Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade and junior college transfer and former Clemson QB Chad Kelly.
Following spring practice, Buchanan appeared to take the lead in the race, but it’s far from over.
"“After one drill I’d like that one, after the next drill I’d like that one,” Freeze told reporters after the Grove Bowl spring game April 11. “So, I go back and forth. In the totality of spring, going back before today, I would say that Ryan Buchanan had a lead in my mind. That certainly doesn’t mean that he is going to be the starter. After today I will go back and watch the film and put it with our cumulative stats and everything else that we are judging on them. We will see where it is after today. “Again, even if we say that he has the lead, it is so minute and so small and so far from being over. That is everything being transparent and that is how I felt today. I might feel differently come Monday. I will watch the film this weekend and we will see.”"
Buchanan has the benefit of two previous years in Freeze’s system, but he’s yet to show consistency. Last season, he played in four games and completed 12 of 22 passes for 75 yards and an interception. Buchanan was 5-for-16 with 49 yards and a pick in the Grove Bowl.
The 6-foot-3, 208-pound redshirt sophomore may have led to this point, but he isn’t likely to hold off Kelly through the September 5 opener against UT-Martin.
Kelly has the edge in experience as a starting college quarterback, which will certainly count for something. He’s also the most talented of the three QBs.
Last season at East Mississippi Community College, Kelly threw for 3,906 yards, had 446 rushing yards and led the school to an NJCAA national championship. Of course, experience and talent aren’t the biggest issue for Kelly – it’s staying out of trouble.
He ended up at EMCC because he was kicked off the team at Clemson in April 2014. In December, he agreed to a plea deal following a non-criminal disorderly conduct charge in Buffalo, New York.
As a redshirt freshman last season, Kincade completed 16 of 20 passes for 127 yards and a touchdowns. He also gained 95 rushing yards and scored once on 28 carries. In the spring game He was 9-for-18 for 93 yards and added 50 yards on the ground.
Kincade is the most athletic of the three, and has the potential to be a dynamic playmaker. Ole Miss is one of the worst running teams in the SEC (the team’s 155.5 rushing yards per game last season ranked tenth out of the 14 teams in the league), so Kincade’s running ability would be an asset.
However, he’s currently got the longest odds of the three. If Kincade doesn’t win the QB job, he could help the team at another position.
Projected Winner: Chad Kelly