Barry Brunetti doesn’t fancy the heat and humidity he’s had to deal with during Ole Miss’ preseason practices. It’s uncomfortable and muggy ,and he admits, like any good southern will, that it is downright unbearable at times.
But as his practice jersey quickly soaks and sticks to his body, providing more of a nuisance than a cooling effect, Brunetti thinks about why he is where he is. Why he’s taking reps as an Ole Miss Rebel and not a West Virginia Mountaineer.
Once he remembers that there is indeed method to his incredible madness, he goes right back to work.
It’s well documented the Brunetti left Memphis, Tenn., following his senior year of high school for Morgantown, W. Va., but left after his first season to be closer to his ailing mother, who was badly injured in a car accident a few years ago.
Brunetti went through spring practice with the Rebels unsure of his fall status, but tried to absorb as much of David Lee’s complex offense as he could. He said the coaches were forced to give him less reps because they didn’t want to restrict Randall Mackey and Zack Stoudt who would be playing this fall.
Brunetti wasn’t bummed about the coaches’ decision, he knew what was best for the team, but in late April he got the news that he NCAA had cleared him to play immediately and an overwhelming feeling of joy rushed through his body. It didn’t matter that his parents knew before he did or that the decision had been made well before he actually received the news. All he knew was that he’d have a chance to continue to play the game he loved sooner and in front of his family.
“It feels good know thing that my mother is going to get to see me play, and playing back home, back in the SEC and being able to play in the best conference in the country with my mom and dad seeing me play is an honor,” Brunetti said.
You know what else feels good? Knowing that you coaches trust you. And that’s exactly the feeling at Ole Miss.
Mackey had the edge during spring practice, but shortly after the spring game, in which Brunetti completed 12-of-21 passes for 211 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, coach Houston Nutt said Brunetti would start if the Rebels had to play immediately. He said the same at SEC media days.
“I'm excited about Barry Brunetti,“ Nutt said. “He didn't lose a high school football game.
“If there's a little separation, we'd say he's the most accountable.”
Brunetti, who is the only quarterback on the roster with Division I experience, has started preseason practice showing off not just his passing and running skills but his command in the pocket, his patience and his leadership.
It seems as if Brunetti has everything going for him to win the starting job, well, except for the fact that he grew up a Memphis fan during some intense rivalry days with the Tigers. He’s positive he’ll be forgiven.
What isn’t forgivable is not learning the offense. Brunetti didn’t stress over West Virginia’s offense much, but has had some late nights studying Lee’s.
This offense is more fun for Brunetti, but it can be a headache to follow at times.
“This offense is 30 times harder,“ he said. “West Virginia’s offense -- I learned that in one week. No disrespect to West Virginia’s offense. That offense was an excellent offense. It was just something I was used to all my life -- the spread offense -- and it was much easier to me. This is much different. It’s the spread, but it’s also pro-style with NFL prototypes. It’s something you have to learn, you have to work at it. It’s not something you are just going to learn overnight.”