- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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OXFORD, Miss. -- Bo Wallace was known for a lot of things last season. Being stationary wasn’t one of them.
For the past few months, that’s basically what Wallace has been, as Ole Miss’ gun-slinging quarterback has been stuck on the sideline for all of the Rebels’ practices this spring as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
“The first couple of months were tough on me because I was so bored and I wasn’t able to be out there with the guys,” Wallace told ESPN.com Thursday.
It was a stir-crazy kind of bored.
With his shoulder out of commission, Wallace was forced to completely shut his body down. He had to run in a pool because running on solid ground jarred his shoulder. Trainers could only move his arm a little each day in order to loosen it. And he couldn’t even stretch because of the pain.
Wallace went from football player to statue.
But in a couple of weeks, Wallace expects to be back throwing, well, anything. Wallace sees a doctor the first Wednesday of every month and he’s hoping his next visit will end with him being cleared to throw little medicine balls and maybe a football.
Sitting out hasn’t been ideal, but it’s been necessary for Wallace, who spent most of 2012 with nagging shoulder pain. He originally hurt it against Tulane on Sept. 22, but team doctors didn’t think he’d need surgery. Another hit late in the Rebels’ 30-27 win over Arkansas five weeks later changed that, as they determined he’d either have to rest or push surgery back and play through the pain.
Wallace chose the pain.
"I probably could have sat out a couple of games,” he said, “but you're not going to do that if you're a competitor."
With his shoulder aching, Wallace said he played more conservatively and had less power behind his throws. Mentally, he lost his confidence in deep passes because he literally couldn’t deliver them.
"I was used to being that gunslinger who could fit it in and then toward the end of the year I was lucky if I could throw a ball 45 yards,” Wallace said.
That became obvious when he was pulled late in the loss to LSU because his coaches knew his arm was shot. Wallace said that was the most painful game of the season.
To help protect himself more last season, Wallace took lessons in sliding. Coaches placed a padded mat on the turf inside the Rebels’ indoor practice facility and Wallace would run and attempt to slide onto the mat. It wasn’t very pretty.
"It's so awkward because you want to keep running and you're going full speed to slide that way,” he said. “I'm not a baseball player or anything so it's not natural for me to do that."
But it saved him a few times late in the season, especially in the Mississippi State game where he found himself sliding more than he’d like.
Now, Wallace can’t slide, so he’s helping himself by being more of a student of the game. When he isn’t calling out protections and mentally dissecting every detail of every offense play, including what works and doesn’t in certain protections and against certain defensive looks, he’s examining all 17 major mistakes he made last season by watching his “Interception Reel” with offensive coordinator Dan Werner.
While Wallace passed for nearly 3,000 yards and had 22 touchdowns, he also threw a league-high 17 interceptions. In losses to Texas, Texas A&M and LSU Wallace totaled eight interceptions and Ole Miss lost the last two by a combined nine points.
“He knows that that's No. 1 on his list of things to improve if we want to be next-level stuff," Hugh Freeze said.
It’s hard to eliminate mistakes when you aren’t taking live reps, so Wallace is helping his backups. If he can’t cut down errors, he’s making sure they do by helping them with reads and finding defensive holes.
It isn’t as exciting as actually going through the motions, but it’s helping him grow and beats the statue-like alternative.
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