Obviously the biggest reason for the sharp turnaround was the hire of head coach Hugh Freeze, who immediately changed the culture of the program. Other than Freeze, you have to give it to junior quarterback Bo Wallace. Given how well Wallace has been playing, and considering the Rebels are 3-0 for the first time since 1989, you have to wonder, should Wallace leave school a year early and enter the 2014 NFL Draft?
The electrifying Wallace, who gained familiarity of Freeze’s scheme while at Arkansas State in 2010, has been a rock for the Rebels since the start of the 2012 season. Last year the gunslinger threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 22 touchdowns, while also adding another 390 yards rushing and eight rushing touchdowns. The biggest knock on him? A nation-leading 17 interceptions. But he was also playing the last eight games of the season with an injured throwing shoulder, which led to offseason surgery. Post-surgery, through three games this season, Wallace has thrown for 648 yards with four touchdowns, while also chipping in 120 on the ground. The best part is he’s had no turnovers.
So you can see why this potentially could be alarming to Ole Miss fans after this kind of start, and it will only intensify with every win here on out. Wallace does have legitimate NFL-grade skills. He’s 6-foot-4, 210-pounds, has a plus strength arm, solid if inconsistent accuracy, good speed and escapability out of the pocket. Plus, he’s only getting better and better each week. A few more signature wins this season and his stock will be soaring. Even considering all of the above, I still don’t think he should leave after this season.
I know you can make the case that his stock will never be higher (which, if he continues playing like he is, it may not), but this year’s QB class is too stacked, especially when you consider the underclassmen that will more than likely declare early. Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), Brett Hundley (UCLA), Tajh Boyd (Clemson), Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) and A.J. McCarron (Alabama) will all be making the case for first round status this year.
But it doesn’t stop there. No, this class is as deep as it is talented. Marcus Mariota (Oregon), Derek Carr (Fresno St.), David Fales (San Jose St.), Aaron Murray (Georgia), Zach Mettenberger (LSU) and Stephen Morris (Miami) are all looking like second and third round guys. As good as Wallace has been playing, it’d be hard for him to be selected third round or better in the ’14 Draft. This year’s class is just too deep.
If Wallace sticks around for his senior season, however, he could be one of the top 5 QBs in the 2015 NFL Draft. Assuming Hundley, Bridgewater and Mariota leave as expected following this season, the QB big board is wide open for Wallace to step in. Kevin Hogan (Stanford), Cody Fajardo (Nevada), Devin Gardner (Michigan), Chuckie Keeton (Utah State) and Jeff Driskel (Florida) will all be competing for top billings, and Wallace compares favorably with all of them. The only QB that will be eligible in 2015 that Wallace can’t really match up to is Jameis Winston (Florida State), but who knows if he’ll even enter the draft?
Not only will the QB class be weaker as a whole in 2015, but Wallace’s play on the field should reach its collegiate zenith. With another good recruiting class, the offensive weapons will continue to grow. And just imagine how good receiver Laquon Treadwell will be with a full season and offseason under his belt. If Wallace sticks around for the 2014 season, the Rebels could legitimately contend for the SEC West, which also means contending for the SEC, which also means contending for the National Championship.
It might be tempting to take the money and run after this season, Bo, but stick around one more year.