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Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead looks for quick turnaround

JACKSON, Miss. -- Jevan Snead's got no rhythm.

The Mississippi quarterback has been noticeably out of sync this season, completing less than 50 percent of his passes, and the No. 21 Rebels are suffering for it.

He'll miss a simple pass to the flat, then complete a difficult throw into coverage. His general lack of consistency resembles his early struggles last year -- struggles he figured were behind him after he guided Ole Miss on a six-game winning streak to end last season.

"I was hoping to get into a rhythm quicker this year but obviously haven't been able to do that," Snead said. "That's one of the things we're trying to correct."

Last week's 16-10 loss to South Carolina shined a spotlight on Snead's troubles -- but it's been at times easy to overlook them.

Against Memphis, it was the team's first game and Snead finished strong with two late touchdowns.

Against Southeastern Louisiana, he threw three touchdowns a week after a bout with the flu and attending his grandfather's funeral. Still, things seemed amiss even though he extended his record of games with multiple touchdowns to eight.

Then he hit a low against South Carolina, completing 7 of 21 passes for 107 yards. He got moving late again with a second-half touchdown pass, but he couldn't rally the team to a win.

And as Snead goes, so goes the Ole Miss offense. Up and down. Brilliant one moment, befuddling the next.

"That's probably been one of the most disappointing things, not being able to really come out and get in that rhythm like we are accustomed to," coach Houston Nutt said. "Keeping the ball, getting first downs and putting points on the board, it has taken us too long to get going. I expect that to change now. I really do."

And when it comes to building rhythm, Nutt says Snead is the conductor. He listed several ways the junior can return the team to balance this week at Vanderbilt, the team that picked off Snead four times last season.

"It's just hitting open receivers," Nutt said. "Don't see ghosts. Don't expect something (on the offensive line) to collapse or don't feel like you have to concentrate on what is below you. We want his eyes downfield like he did last year. Just play the game like he is capable of playing. When he does that, our team moves."

And Snead had the offense moving like a well-oiled machine over the second half of last season. He had 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions during a 3-4 start, then threw 16 touchdown passes against three interceptions during a six-game win streak to end the season. He finished with 2,762 yards, 26 touchdowns and everyone's attention.

He was a long-shot Heisman Trophy candidate and the pundits declared him a better draft option than guys named Tebow and McCoy. The school even started a Web site -- www.need4snead.com -- to help promote him. Snead has been good-natured about all the attention, but has clearly been uncomfortable.

To deal with the overwhelming demand for his time the school's media relations staff has given Snead a slot after Nutt at the school's weekly news conference, something not done at Ole Miss since Eli Manning was quarterback. Snead was asked how he felt at the podium.

"I didn't ask for the podium," he said in a lighthearted moment. "It wasn't my idea. I was just told to be here and I showed up. I feel honored to be mentioned in the same sentence as Eli or any great quarterback."

Snead, who has completed 35 of 71 passes for 491 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions, can't explain why he's having such a rough start. He refuses to blame troubles along the offensive line or with a young group of receivers.

Snead may be willing to shoulder the burden alone, but teammate Dexter McCluster says the quarterback isn't the only piece of the offense still trying to get on track.

"I think we have to have all 11 on the same page and that's something we haven't had," McCluster said. "Sometimes the receiver is open, but he didn't have the protection to get it there. Sometimes it's a misread or a miscommunication.

"But if we have everybody on the same page, all 11, I think we'll be all right. I know he will be all right once we start clicking."