Ole Miss offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez addressed the media on Monday about the continued struggles on the offensive side of the ball, especially in the passing game, downplaying the lack of rhythm in the two-quarterback system the team has deployed in the past four games.
“The quarterback thing — switching them back and forth — in my opinion, is not a problem. I think those guys have handled it terrifically. They’ve had a great attitude,” he said. “The quarterback rotation is not a concern of mine as far as it affecting the execution. I don’t think it is, but that’s my opinion. It’s open for conversation, I’m sure.”
Quarterback play for Ole Miss has been cloudy since Matt Corral went down in the week four matchup against California. Since then, true freshman John Rhys Plumlee has captured the starting job along with the intrigue of the fan base, but the Rebels have only captured one win over a lowly Vanderbilt squad in the past six games.
Plumlee has proven to be one of the most dynamic ball-carrying quarterbacks in the nation (he’s completed only 48.5% of his passes this season), starting five games while Corral has made only 39 pass attempts since his injury and didn’t see the field in the second half of the loss to Auburn.
Rodriguez has used both quarterbacks, but with heavy dependence on the run, especially with Plumlee’s limited success passing the football, the offense has a lack of rhythm.
“We’ve said that since spring that we should be comfortable in stressful situations going fast because the whole thing’s built around that,” Rodriguez said. “I think there’s times we want to play faster, but you’ve got to get first downs. It’s hard for us when we don’t get first downs early to get in a rhythm.”
The coach said he is exploring all options to improve the offense in the final three games of the season, whether it calls for keeping both or moving forward with one full-time quarterback.
“Anything’s possible. Why in the hell would I say anything differently right now?” he said. “I wouldn’t tell you if I was. It’s unconventional, but I’ve done it before. Other teams are doing it now. You’re seeing it more now at all levels. You better have two or three of those dudes ready to play.”
Rodriguez noted that the increased use of quarterbacks in other positions, like Taysom Hill of the New Orleans Saints, could change what the staff does in recruiting for next year, but doubted any other use of Plumlee in the system besides quarterback.
“Well, he could do that today, but he’s a quarterback. He’s good enough throwing the ball,” he added. “There’s some issues with his throwing Saturday that I think are really correctable when you watch the film, but he’s a quarterback all the way.”
Rodriguez also said Grant Tisdale’s recent departure from the team could open up an opportunity to recruit another quarterback in the next class. Tisdale entered the transfer portal after only receiving playing time in the loss to Alabama when he turned in 56 yards and a touchdown on only two attempts in garbage time. Rodriguez guaranteed that the staff would bring in at least one quarterback recruit in every class and that there would always be competition.
“I’ve said this to our quarterbacks. You might start this week, but you’ve got to compete for your job every week,” he said. “That’s at every position, but at quarterback, maybe that’s the difference, (and) maybe they don’t want to hear that… you compete for your job, and I think that’s the best way to build that culture.”