Ole Miss' Snead struggling to get on track

BY foxsports • October 15, 2009

Problem is there's no easy answer as the Rebels have tumbled from the Top 5 to unranked in rock-like fashion.

Is it the offensive line? Sometimes.

Is it the wide receivers? On occasion.

Is it Snead? Some of his misses have been alarmingly off the mark.

Things have gotten so bad coach Houston Nutt even briefly considered benching Snead - mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate during the preseason - during Saturday's loss to Alabama. He decided he had too much faith in his junior quarterback.

And he still does.

"I know his mindset and understand his commitment," Nutt said. "That is what I feel good about. He is an awesome person who cares, he is really steady and wants to improve. He is very coachable and listens well. He wants to please. He just needs one of those games where things are happening. There have been a lot of things going against him."

Everyone seems to be pulling for Snead and encouragement is coming from everywhere.

"I know Jevan real well," said New York Giants and former Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning. "He is a good kid and a good player. He has come to our football camp a few times and I have worked out with him in the offseason, always trying to help out a current Ole Miss Rebel quarterback. He is doing a good job.

"They are not playing their best football right now but he'll get it going."

That's been the sentiment after each game this season, but Snead has yet to put it together. That he has struggled in every game, throwing seven interceptions in the last two alone, is confusing because he seemed to put all those troubles behind him while the Rebels won six straight to finish the 2008 season.

Yet in 2009, he's completing 46.8 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and nine interceptions. Instead of being one of the Southeastern Conference's top quarterbacks, he's seventh in passing behind even embattled Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton.

The personal statistics don't matter to Snead. It's the bottom line that's bothering him as the Rebels prepare for Alabama-Birmingham this weekend.

"I hate to lose," Snead said. "I hate it more than anything. That's the toughest part."

Here's a closer look at some of Snead's troubles:

- The offensive line. The Rebels have given up eight sacks this season. That's not many but it's the hits that aren't counted in the statistics that appear to be the start of Snead's problems.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said he thought Crimson Tide defenders hit Snead each time he dropped back to pass in the first half Saturday.

Nutt says the line must get better, and fast. Center Daverin Geralds said despite the problems haven't driven a wedge between the quarterback and his linemen.

"He gets on us when he has to," Geralds said. "Sometimes he'll let us know. We have a mutual respect for one another. We know when he gets hit if we didn't give him enough time. He'll let us know if we need to step up and give him more time in the pocket."

- Imaginary pressure. Nutt says after Snead gets rattled the quarterback sees ghosts that aren't there.

Snead agrees.

"I think maybe what I'm struggling with is not moving on to the next play," Snead said. "If I have pressure on the previous play, I may let that affect my footwork or timing on the next play. I think I'm rushed when I do have a little extra time."

Running back Brandon Bolden said Snead's teammates understand what he's going through. "I wouldn't blame him if he had happy feet. I wouldn't want to stand back there and get hit every play."

- Team's poor play. At least that's the message offensive coordinator Kent Austin is trying to get across to his team.

The line gets a lot of attention, but Snead's wide receivers have let him down this season, too. Two of Alabama's four interceptions came after a receiver and let the ball bounce to a defender. Then there are the poorly run routes.

Austin sees similarity between this year's rough start and last season, when the Rebels began 3-4. That group solved its problems as a unit and Austin thinks that's the way to go again.

"We need to work at the entire offense collectively," Austin said. "It's my responsibility to make sure that all of our players understand that it takes 11 to move the ball and to score. Jevan will get his issues corrected. I kind of feel like I am where we were last year at this point with the offense. It's not all Jevan. We need players to make plays."

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