August 23, 2008

Snead anxious to make debut

Game week has finally arrived for Jevan Snead.

The Texas transfer doesn't even try to act all cool and collected about Ole Miss' season-opener Saturday night against Memphis at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Snead might be a superb quarterback, but he would need the acting skills of Morgan Freeman, George Clooney and Tom Cruise combined to come across as nonchalant about his first college game since 2006.

"I'm pretty excited," Snead said. "I'm sure that first drive, I'm going to be all canned up and just letting it all out. I'm sure after those first couple of plays, I'll get into a rhythm and I think it will be a good thing.

"I don't think I really knew what to expect sitting out that year. It was pretty difficult, though, having to sit out and not being able to help the team. I'm glad I'm through it and I can help the team now. I'm definitely looking forward to getting out there and actually showing my teammates that I can play and I do more than just practice. I'm just ready to get out there and do something because it's been awhile. I've been trying to build the respect and I think that will help."

Snead has played in a couple of Grove Bowls since playing as a true freshman for Texas in 2006. In that season, Snead completed 26 of 49 passes for 371 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Snead hasn't played in "real" football since that season, meaning he's been off-limits for defenders to hit. That will change against Memphis, of course, and the Tigers would love nothing more than to rattle Snead in his Ole Miss debut. Snead feels like he's ready for that aspect of the game.

"I feel like I have a pretty good internal clock in my head," Snead said. "In practice, I know if I need to pull it down and dump it or run it or throw it away and I try to do a good job of that. I don't just sit back there and act like I have all the time in the world. The defense gets a little mad if you do that out at practice anyway."

Ole Miss offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kent Austin said the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Snead has improved immeasurably since he first met him back in January.

"It's still a work in progress," Austin said. "He's come a very long way as have the rest of the guys on the offensive side of the ball."

Austin's message, smart decisions and ball security, have been hammered home to Snead during the last three weeks of camp.

"He needs to make great decisions in the running game and the passing game," Austin said. "He needs to put our offense in the best possible position to have success. He does that by making sure he checks properly, making sure he recognizes coverage properly before he delivers the ball and keeps his mechanics. I think Jevan's still thinking a little bit, but he's come a long, long way from the spring. He's a different guy than how he was in the spring."

Snead, a Parade All-American who first committed to Florida before signing with Texas, has been the subject of quite a bit of conversation around the Southeast this summer and in the days leading up to the start of the season. Snead is a wildcard. He figures to be the most physically skilled quarterback Ole Miss hasn't had since Eli Manning left following the 2003 season, throwing to a receiver corps that is chock full of talent and protected by an offensive line that _ while thin _ thrives in pass protection.

"I just expect to go out there and execute like I've been doing in practice," Snead said. "We've been practicing so much and doing these plays and I just expect to go out and do what I've been doing and help lead the team down the field."

First, Snead has to channel the adrenaline that has built up for some 21 months since he left Austin for Oxford.

"Jevan's kind of wired that way a little bit," Austin said. "He's going to be excited and anxious all wrapped into one, but I'd be a little nervous if my quarterback wasn't a little anxious. Jevan has that naturally. That's a good thing."

On Saturday night, Snead will finally take the field as Ole Miss' quarterback. The past 21 months or so have been long and, at times, arduous. Still, they've steeled his resolve to fulfill his football dreams and given him time to form a bond with the school that he'll be representing.

"It's kind of become my home now," Snead said. "I still call the state of Texas my home, but I don't call the University of Texas my home. Ole Miss is my home as far as universities go and I'm very proud to play for them."

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