With a shortened practice schedule because of COVID-19 restrictions, the battle between Matt Corral and John Rhys Plumlee to be starting quarterback remain at the forefront of decisions for Rebel football.
Coaches began looking at Corral, the redshirt sophomore, to win the starting job for the 2020 season in spring camp when Plumlee was away fulfilling baseball obligations. Now, partially because of COVID-19, the friendly rivalry has turned into a fierce competition between two young QBs.
“I thought Matt played extremely well, hit some big plays and was really accurate,” head coach Lane Kiffin said of the Rebels scrimmage last Saturday. “John had a little more up and down and did some really good things… fumbled once for a big turnover, but both of them did some things to excite us.
Because of the raw athleticism that Plumlee exhibits, fans and pundits have theorized that he could suit up at other positions this year. However, Kiffin shut down the speculation.
“We don’t get into schematical personnel, but I can tell you that we are not (giving Plumlee reps at other positions).That is the last thing we would want to do right now,” he said. “If we start repping him at other positions, that will take away from his development as a quarterback, and he’s still really young.”
After receiving multiple questions about the offense’s performance on saturday, defensive back Keidron Smith said, “I need to talk to Coach Kiffin, man, but hey, Matt is getting a lot better… I feel as if he’s more confident in the pocket.”
After the performances from the scrimmage on saturday and the comments from Coach Kiffin and Keirdon Smith it appears Corral is currently in the lead when it comes to being the everyday starter, but the possibility remains that there could be a QB by committee —or time split— by Plumlee and Corral.
Last season, Plumlee had a peak performance against the juggernaut LSU Tigers, turning in 4 rushing TD’s and with 200+ rushing yards while also throwing for 123 yards on 16 attempts. Plumlee’s ability to pull down the ball, take off and elude defenders are all traits that are likely to keep him in the quarterback battle until the very end.
Meanwhile, Corral is the better passer of the two, as past stats indicate, and he may have a greater interest than other Rebels in taking down the Florida Gators in the opening game. He committed to play in Gainesville before he signed with Ole Miss. Maybe this chip on his shoulder to take down his former program at home in Oxford will lead to him getting the starting job.
More options are better than no options, and this will not be an easy decision for Kiffin and his staff to make.