August 26, 2008

Memphis to start rookie QB

Ole Miss has beat Memphis three straight seasons, but Memphis has gone on to records of 7-5 in 2005 and 7-6 in 2007 and to bowl games four out of the last five years because of some stability and talent at quarterback.

Those roles could be reversed some on Saturday when the Tigers invade Vaught-Hemingway Stadium to take on Ole Miss. The Rebels will start former Texas quarterback Jevan Snead, who may be limited on experience, but certainly not as much as Memphis starter Arkelon Hall, a junior college transfer.

Over recent years, Memphis quarterbacks have performed well in three straight close losses. In 2005, Tiger quarterback Patrick Byrne broke his leg on the opening series against the Rebels and was relieved by Will Hudgens, who hit on 15 of 28 passes for 145 yards. In 2006, Martin Hankins threw for over 200 yards against the Rebels and last year, he threw for almost 350 yards.

For Memphis, the familiar names are gone - Hankins has exhausted his eligibility after transferring to Memphis and former Oxford native Matt Malouf, who saw some action against Ole Miss last year, has transferred to Samford. A familiar name is Hudgens, who returns for his senior season, but not as the starting quarterback.

Hall, a former Washington State signee, emerged as the starter in the spring and any questions about his starting status was quieted with the transfer of Malouf, while Hudgens played baseball instead of participating in spring practice. While head coach Tommy West was somewhat vocal in naming Hall his starter, Hall essentially won the job by default.

Hall is a 6-2, 220-pound transfer from the College of Sequoias and was a three-star prospect who signed with Washington State in 2005. He retained that three star rating coming out of junior college and Memphis was his only confirmed offer. He sat out the 2005 season at Washington State as a redshirt and was competing for a spot on the depth chart in 2006 when he broke his leg in team's first preseason scrimmage. He did not enroll at in the spring of 2007. In junior college, he passed for 2,398 yards and 13 touchdowns.

While Hall is expected to draw the start on Saturday, Hudgens will also likely see action against the Rebels on Saturday.

"Will is going to play," West said. "There will be situations, some third down opportunities and some fourth down opportunities where we might put Will into the game. I want to see Arkelon do well. I will pull Arkelon if he is struggling and I can see that it is getting to him. It is very comforting having a guy like Will who has a lot of game experience. However, right now, as far as putting Will in as the quarterback for the third series, I'm not thinking that way right now. Arkelon is our quarterback and I am comfortable with that situation."

Key for West, Hall, and Hudgens may very well be how well Ole Miss' offense is doing as the game progresses. If the Rebels, under Snead are having success, it might cause West to go to a more experience quarterback.

"Like any rookie quarterback, we aren't going to throw everything out there in the first series," West said. "I would like to try to help him get things started. Normally, if they have some success early, our wideouts can take some of the pressure off of him. Arkelon is a strong armed guy who won't have to make a lot of plays for us. If he can get the ball in the right places, our receivers will make plays for him. The big thing will be if we can run the ball to some to take even more pressure off of Arkelon and the receivers. That would be the perfect scenario for us."

Rebel head coach Houston Nutt has his team prepared for both quarterbacks.

"Their quarterback, coming from a junior college, is someone you don't know that much about, but apparently he is a very athletic guy," Nutt said. "He likes to run the ball and throw. They also have a thrower in Hudgens, the other quarterback.

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