December 16, 2008

Four-star quarterback lists Ole Miss on top

Monday was a day Raymond Cotton will never forget.

The four-star quarterback from Fort Meade, Md., learned this morning that his recruiting coach at Auburn, James Willis, had been let go by new Tiger coach Gene Chizik. That action resulted in his decision to de-commit from Auburn.

Hours later, Cotton was entertaining Kent Austin, a man who could very well be his quarterback coach and offensive coordinator next season.

"It was real strange," Cotton said of the whirlwind day. "I didn't even know about it this morning. My dad told me Coach Willis had been fired. I was messed up. That was just too much for me. First, it was (former Auburn offensive coordinator) Tony Franklin then Coach (Tommy) Tuberville was fired. Those were guys I had really good relationships with. I had to get away from it."

Cotton had talked to Austin, a former Ole Miss quarterback who coached the Saskatchewan Roughriders to a Gray Cup championship last season before returning to his alma mater as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, but he'd never met him in person prior to tonight.

"It went pretty good," Cotton said. "He came in and sat down and we had a pretty good conversation. …The chemistry was real good. My parents and he were on the same page. That made it even better. That made me feel comfortable about him."

One of Ole Miss' selling points for Cotton is Austin's development of redshirt sophomore quarterback Jevan Snead, who transferred from Texas, sat out the 2007 season and then led the 20th-ranked Rebels to a Cotton Bowl bid against No. 8 Texas Tech.

"With him there, he could teach me a whole lot," Cotton said. "That is a positive, getting behind somebody else. The guy came in Ole Miss his first year and did good."

Cotton said he'll be watching Snead closely when he and his family make the trip to north Mississippi for an official visit to the Ole Miss campus on Jan. 9.

"I'll be looking for to see what Snead does on a regular, daily basis, what he works on, and all the stuff he does," Cotton said. "That's what I'll be focusing on. I know it's a beautiful campus, they have great coaches and they're a great SEC team that's young."

Cotton, who also has an official visit scheduled to Southern Mississippi on Jan. 23, said he's been hearing from several other schools in recent weeks.

"Arkansas is still there," Cotton said. "Oklahoma State is trying to move in, Boston College as well. Right now, I'm an SEC guy, but who knows what will happen? …Right now, Ole Miss is probably my No. 1. I think I'm going to take a couple of more visits."

Another factor in Ole Miss' favor, perhaps, could be the Rebels' Sunday acquisition of a commitment from former Auburn pledge Rodney Scott. The four-star running back left Oxford Sunday saying he planned to start working on Cotton.

Cotton said he read Scott's statements, but he hasn't heard from him yet. However, Scott's commitment to Ole Miss, he said, did leave a lasting impression.

"It has SEC championship written all over it," Cotton said. "That's real cool. Guys want to stick together."

Cotton passed for 2,243 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior.

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