Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jeremiah Masoli Out For Redemption @ Mississippi

Jerrell Powe is a bit of a football junkie, so when he realized Mississippi needed a quarterback and Jeremiah Masoli needed a team, he organized a group of seniors, marched down to coach Houston Nutt's office and made a plea.

"We got to get this guy," the 320-pound defensive tackle said. "I saw him play a couple of times last year (on TV), and I've never seen anybody run a zone-read offense like he runs it."

So with the team's blessing, Masoli has made his way to Oxford. And Monday morning, he talked about his strange and highly publicized odyssey from Oregon to Ole Miss, acknowledging this was the last chance to end his college career without a bitter taste.

"I understand that," he said. "and I am determined to do everything with it."

Masoli, a San Francisco native who accounted for 51 touchdowns the last two seasons at Oregon, started preseason camp second on the depth chart, behind starter Nathan Stanley and ahead of junior college transfer Randall Mackey.

But few expect Masoli to remain the backup all season. The 5-11, 220-pound senior led Oregon to the Rose Bowl last season and is widely considered one of the country's best dual-threat quarterbacks.

"He commands respect in the huddle," Nutt said. "He talks with authority. You could see how smooth he was with ballhandling skills and how he jumped right in. You can tell he's played football. ... I'm just glad he's on our team."

While checking Masoli's background, Nutt said almost everyone he came across mentioned the quarterback was bright and engaging. Masoli said he looked forward to proving he was not the same guy who pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary in March and was cited for marijuana possession in June.

"That's all I can do," he said. "I come from a great home with a great family. My parents instilled some great values in me. I just look to live like that."

Now that Masoli's off-the-field issues have been poked, prodded and analyzed, molding his abilities to fit the Rebels offense and vice versa is next. Co-offensive coordinator Mike Markuson said tweaking the offense just four weeks before the season's first game — Sept. 4 vs. Jacksonville State — wasn't exactly ideal.

"In offensive football, you're trying to fit an identity that fits your personnel," Markuson said.

He pointed to his time at Arkansas when Matt Jones was quarterback. Jones, still second among Southeastern Conference quarterbacks in career rushing yards, was a terror because of his ability to run and pass.

But Jones was 6-6, while Masoli is 5-11.

"I think there's always a concern when you bring in a shorter quarterback with just how well he can see downfield," co-offensive coordinator Dave Rader said. "But from what we saw (Sunday), it didn't bother him. He has a lot of confidence. So if it's not bothering him, it's not bothering me."

And with so much on the line, Masoli is intent on making the most of his second chance. To him, learning the playbook would probably be the easy part.

"It's not just about football," he said. "It's about coming out and proving myself. Coach Nutt has given me another chance, and I am determined to do the most I can with it. I'm not going to let anybody else down."

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