Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Brunetti hopes the third time is the charm
By Edward Aschoff
Ole Miss quarterback Barry Brunetti has seen a lot of change during his two years as a college quarterback.
He's seen two different campuses -- after starting his career at West Virginia -- and attempted to learn his third different offense under his third different offensive coordinator this spring.
Ole Miss quarterback Barry Brunetti finds himself in another competition for a starting job.
As much as things have changed for the rising junior, one thing has stayed constant: Brunetti has had a fight on his hands each step of the way.
"I've been competing since ninth grade for a spot, so it kind of comes natural to me," Brunetti said. "It's nothing new to me. It's something I do every day. It comes natural."
Brunetti lost out to favorite Geno Smith at WVU back in 2010, and after carrying the starting torch at the beginning of last season at his new school, he quickly lost it before the season opener even ended and watched as Randall Mackey and Zack Stoudt took over for most of the year.
Sitting behind Smith wasn't a surprise, but Brunetti was blindsided by his sudden fall in 2011. Former coach Houston Nutt even said during the season that he wished he had redshirted Brunetti, who played in just four games and threw for 144 yards on 19 of 35 passing.
The benching crushed Brunetti, but he still doesn't know the reasoning behind the move by Nutt and then offensive coordinator David Lee.
"I wish I could tell you, but I can't," Brunetti said.
"I try not to dread on last year. I try not to think about it."
So as Brunetti's second spring at Ole Miss ends, he's yet again in a fight, but this time he's more comfortable with where he stands because Ole Miss’ offense has now morphed into the spread. Once he got the terminology down, Brunetti said he grasped the offense quickly, because it was very similar to what he ran at West Virginia and high school.
"I'm very comfortable now," he said. "This is back to what I do."
Brunetti led the competition last spring, but heads into the summer tied with junior college transfer Bo Wallace. Wallace had the edge early in the competition, because he knew the offense after being with new coach Hugh Freeze at Arkansas State. That lead quickly shrank as Brunetti took more reps.
Brunetti said he operates best in the spread because he prefers the quick routes and throws, and loves to use his feet. He passed for just 62 yards, while running for 109 in Ole Miss’ spring game, but offensive coordinator Dan Werner said Brunetti made tremendous progress this spring.
"This is suited for him," Werner said. "He has a quick release, he has quick feet, and that's what we try to do is get rid if the ball quick. Also, he runs the ball well, and we want to be able to use his abilities there, too."
Werner made sure the battle between Brunetti and Wallace, who threw for 240 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the spring game, was intense. Once it became clear that they were the front-runners the reps evened out -- each one just as important as the other.
Every snap taken and every question Werner asked contributed to Werner's thoughts on which was the right quarterback.
He left spring without a clear answer.
Brunetti wants to be the answer. As he looks to reinvent himself and his career, Brunetti also wants to help reinvent Ole Miss. The program has been on a free fall for two years, resulting in six wins and 14 straight conference losses.
Brunetti hopes to turn that around.
"I've been in college for two years, man, and I'm itching to be a starter for a season," he said. "I really want people to see what I can do, and what I can do with this team, because we have great young talent.
"I really want to win this job. I think about it every day before I go to sleep."