Nutt faces tough call on Masoli

Not that Ole Miss' Houston Nutt necessarily needs my advice, but he might want to tread lightly as he scrambles to find a quarterback.

The Rebels are down to just two scholarship quarterbacks after backup Raymond Cotton left the team this past Saturday. Cotton was granted his release and plans to transfer after apparently convincing himself that he wasn’t going to get much of a chance to play behind Nathan Stanley.

Now, all of a sudden, former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is back on Nutt’s radar, about a week after Nutt said the Rebels had no interest in pursuing Masoli, who was kicked off Oregon’s team after two run-ins with the law, including a second-degree burglary charge.

Nutt has been down this road before. He took a chance on former Florida safety Jamar Hornsby last year, and it blew up in the Rebels’ faces.

Hornsby was booted from the Gators’ team after being charged with the fraudulent use of a dead Florida student’s credit card. She was killed in a motorcycle accident and just happened to be the girlfriend of Hornsby’s then-teammate, Joe Haden.

The Rebels took a chance and signed the troubled Hornsby after a stopover at junior college, and he was in trouble again not even a month later. He was indicted on a felony assault charge, and Nutt had no choice but to dismiss him from the team.

In Nutt’s defense, he’s not the first coach, nor will he be the last coach, to take a chance on a talented player with a troubled past.

But to do it two years in a row is tempting fate.

Make no mistake: Nutt has to have another quarterback. The Rebels’ backup right now is junior college transfer Randall Mackey, who wasn’t in Oxford for spring practice and was probably going to factor in as a specialty player this season.

An injury to Stanley could be disastrous, which is why Nutt is exploring every avenue.

It doesn’t sound as if Masoli is necessarily at the top of his list, but he’s certainly on the list.

Is he worth the risk?

Well, he only has one year of eligibility remaining, and you can’t help but wonder what effect the addition of Masoli would have on Ole Miss’ team chemistry.

I can’t imagine Masoli would come to Ole Miss for a season and be content with being the backup. Likewise, I can’t imagine Stanley and the guys on the team who’ve lined up behind him would be enamored with Masoli popping in and taking over the starting spot.

What’s more, this isn’t going to be a decision Nutt makes on his own. The Ole Miss administration, including the chancellor, would likely have to sign off on bringing Masoli aboard.

There’s the risk/reward factor here for everybody.

Where does it leave Nutt in the eyes of his bosses if he gets the clearance to bring Masoli aboard and he gets in trouble again?

Either way, it’s a tough call for Nutt, who already had to kick off one of his more promising younger players (receiver Patrick Patterson) earlier this year for violating team rules.

The other thing is that Nutt doesn’t have much time to look elsewhere, and the pickings are slim this close to the start of preseason practice.

Is gambling on Masoli worth it?

We’re going to find out.