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January 23, 2006

Schaeffer should start for Ole Miss

It's not often that a team gets an instant starting quarterback in a recruiting class, but Ole Miss and coach Ed Orgeron have landed one.

Brent Schaeffer's commitment to Ole Miss gives the Rebels a ready-made starter at quarterback. The five-star prospect from the College of the Sequoias in California started at Tennessee as a true freshman before leaving the Vols program for junior college.

In a perfect world, Schaeffer would already be in Oxford for winter workouts and spring practice, but he is scheduled to transfer in May. This probably makes some believe that the Deerfield Beach, Fla., native will be behind the 8-ball with regards to winning the starting quarterback job in the fall.

Not so.

Schaffer is better than any quarterback Ole Miss has on its roster. New offensive coordinator Dan Werner has to be salivating at the possibilities having this kind of talent under center can bring. The guess here is that if Schaeffer makes it to Oxford in time for preseason practice, it will not be a shock to see him in the starting lineup for the Rebels' season opener against Memphis on Sept. 2. He's simply too talented not to be. Also, keep in mind that he stepped on campus in Knoxville as a true freshman and won the Vols starting quarterback job without the benefit of spring practice.

As with most transfers, there are risks involved. Nobody knows how Schaeffer will fit in with regards to the chemistry of the Ole Miss team. There are reasons why he left Tennessee and reasons why other schools (Clemson and Texas A&M being two) didn't feel he was the right fit for their program.

But in recent months Orgeron has shown that he is willing to take what others didn't want and use it to his advantage.

Take Werner for instance, who joined the Ole Miss staff after being fired from Miami (Fla.). He was huge holding off Wisconsin and North Carolina State for Schaeffer's commitment. Without a doubt, Werner being hired played a big factor in the decision. It would be stretch to think Ole Miss would have won this battle had it not had an offensive coordinator in place.

In addition to Orgeron and Werner, credit also has to be given to Rebels defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen and secondary coach Tony Hughes, both of whom were instrumental in landing the talented quarterback.

Nielsen has been active in California, both on the JUCO circuit and with high school prospects, this recruiting season. He is the recruiter of record for five prospects from the Golden State: Schaeffer, JUCO offensive lineman Corey Actis, JUCO tight end Jason Hawkins, high school Rivals250 linebacker Jonathan Cornell and three-star high school quarterback Michael Herrick.

Both Hughes and Nielsen had big weeks last week outside of Schaeffer. Cornell, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound backer with 4.56 speed, committed to Nielsen on Wednesday, and Meridian (Miss.) running back Cordera Eason, also a Rivals250 selection, committed to Hughes on Friday.

There is a lot of quarterback talent heading to the SEC next season with all three of the nation's high school five-star signal-callers, Matthew Stafford (Georgia), Mitch Mustain (Arkansas) and Tim Tebow (Florida), heading to the league.

Stafford, who already has enrolled at UGA, expects to be in the mix for the Dawgs starting quarterback job. Mustain will provide stiff competition to Casey Dick in Fayetteville, and Tebow is expected to be used in spot duty to back up Chris Leak. These three are expected to be the most scrutinized newcomers under center next year in the league.

But the incoming starting quarterback who is most ready to play right now and perhaps the one with the most upside is Schaeffer, who is not a newcomer. He gives Ole Miss a quarterback who has played most of a season in the Southeastern Conference. There isn't another recruit in the class of 2006 who has that on his resume.


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