Masoli experience good for Houston Nutt

DESTIN, Fla. – On paper, you’d assume the Jeremiah Masoli experiment at Ole Miss was a failure.

The Rebels went 4-8, including an embarrassing 49-48 loss to Jacksonville State at home. And while Ole Miss averaged 30.6 points per game, Masoli passed for 2,039 yards with 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

It just wasn’t a banner year in Oxford.

But when coach Houston Nutt puts the paper down and throws the record aside, he’s very pleased with the job Masoli did in his only season at quarterback with the Rebels.

Arriving under controversial terms after run-ins with the law forced his dismissal from Oregon, Nutt took a ton of ridicule for his decision to recruit and sign Masoli in 2010.

During the first day of the SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla., Nutt glowed about Masoli and the role he played at Ole Miss last season.

“Not a better guy that I’ve met in just a one-year time,” Nutt said Tuesday. “I’d do it again.

“He was a class act and I know he made mistakes out there [on the field] but boy he came in and helped our locker room.

“He did right by us.”

With a team struggling for leadership last fall, Masoli was the one who stepped up to guide the team behind the scenes. This year, Nutt will be breaking in yet another new quarterback, but the new guy won’t be as experienced as Masoli.

The Rebels will have redshirt junior Randall Mackey, junior college transfer Zack Stoudt and West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti competing for the starting spot this fall. Mackey and Brunetti are the leaders.

Mackey impressed the most at the beginning of the spring, but Brunetti made the strongest push at the end, leading Nutt to currently favor Brunetti, who has the only Division 1 experience.

“If we played tonight, Brunetti would probably go out there first tonight,” Nutt said. “But we’re not playing tonight.”

Regardless of who gets the nod, Nutt is hoping the new starter takes the path Masoli took when he arrived. Watching how Masoli acted and how he prepared, Nutt said he has a better handle on how to deal with this season’s first-year quarterback.

The first thing Nutt wants to do is drill the notion of enhancing their work ethic into each one. That was the staple of Masoli’s character with the Rebels, and Nutt is hoping that trend continues with his new, younger gunslingers.

“Some of them can handle it,” he said. “Some of them it may be a little bit harder transition.

“[Masoli] wanted to be accepted by his peers and his teammates and he did it with work ethic. I think that’s key.”