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December 2, 2008

Snead hopes Rebels' second-half rally is 2009 harbinger

It's probably news to Ole Miss' sports information department, but the Jevan Snead-for-Heisman campaign has been launched.

Ole Miss senior wide receiver Mike Wallace won't be around next season to help the Rebels' sophomore quarterback, but he's already putting in a good word for Snead in the race for the 2010 Heisman Trophy.

"I think Jevan will be a Heisman contender next year with the publicity that Ole Miss will get going into next year," Wallace said Monday. "I believe that if we could go in and win this bowl game, we can come into next year ranked in the top 10 or 15 and there's going to be a lot of publicity for him.

"He's going to be a real high draft pick in the next year or two. I believe that for sure. He's real smart. He works hard and he's tough. All of that's going to come into play in the next year or two. I believe he's going to throw a lot of touchdowns."

Told of Wallace's endorsement, Snead laughed a little. It was a fitting reaction from the soft-spoken quarterback to his loquacious target.

"I don't know about that," said Snead, who was carrying around an Ole Miss pennant, one that he wanted All-American offensive tackle Michael Oher to sign for a young relative back home in Texas. "I really don't think about anything like that. I just go one week at a time. Right now, our focus is on the bowl game, whichever one that may be."

Snead's modesty is nice, but there's no denying the fact the transfer from Texas had a bang-up debut on the Southeastern Conference stage. Snead was 166-for-298 passing for 2,470 yards and 23 touchdowns versus 12 interceptions. Snead also rushed for three touchdowns while leading the 22nd-ranked Rebels to an 8-4 overall record, a 5-3 mark in the SEC and likely a bit in the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., against No. 10 Ohio State or No. 21 Michigan State or the Jan. 2 AT&T Cotton Bowl in Dallas opposite No. 8 Texas Tech.

"I think with each game, I got a little more comfortable in the offense," Snead said. "It helps when you have great players around you."

The bulk of Snead's turnovers came early in the season, when he was shaking off the rust from the NCAA-mandated layoff after transferring to Ole Miss. Throw in a new offense installed by coach Houston Nutt and offensive coordinator Kent Austin, and things moved quickly for Snead.

"He was just a pup out there," Austin said.

No longer. Instead, only Georgia's Matthew Stafford and Arkansas' Casey Dick threw for more yards per game. Only Florida's Tim Tebow and Stafford had higher pass efficiency ratings than Snead's 142.7 mark, and only Stafford, Tebow and Dick accounted for more yardage per game than Snead's 211 yards per outing.

"I really didn't know what to think," Snead said when asked to reflect on what he expected from the 2008 season before it began. "I knew we had a great team. I've been around some good teams and I knew we had some great players on offense as well as defense, so we also have great coaches. I didn't know exactly what to expect, but I knew we were going to be good."

Snead proved his competitive chops early in the season in a rally to take a late lead at Wake Forest, a game the Demon Deacons eventually won, 30-28. He nearly rallied the Rebels to a win at then-No. 2 Alabama before falling short, 24-20. Ole Miss hasn't lost since. Instead, the Rebels have won five straight games, and in the process, Snead has proven his physical toughness to teammates, coaches and himself.

Snead was slammed to the Tiger Stadium turf by LSU's Rahim Alem late in the first half of the Rebels' 31-13 win in Baton Rouge, La., on Nov. 22. Six days later, after essentially not practicing at all, Snead threw four touchdown passes _ including two to Wallace _ in Ole Miss' 45-0 Egg Bowl rout of Mississippi State.

"It wasn't too bad," Snead said. "I've got all my motion and everything, but I have a little pain lifting it here and there. I have no doubt it will be 100 percent by the time we play."

While Snead refused to express his desire to become Ole Miss' first Heisman winner, he said he believes the Rebels' late charge should lead to even bigger things next season.
"Especially since we got rolling here at the end, I think it gets us into the bowl and then carries forward into the spring," Snead said. I think it will help with recruiting a lot and I think it helps the overall confidence of the team.

"I think I still have to work with some of my decision-making. I feel like I've made good steps in doing that from the beginning of the season, but that's always something you can work on, something you can get better at, as well as my mechanics."

Ole Miss should learn its bowl fate as early as Wednesday and no later than Sunday. While fans debate the pros and cons of Cotton versus Capital One and Wallace is campaigning to get his quarterback a trip to New York next December, the normally reserved Snead admitted he's hoping the Rebels are sent west rather than given an all-expenses paid trip to Disney World.

"It would be a great honor and a great opportunity to go back there and play, especially since I live so close to Dallas," said Snead, a Stephenville, Texas, native. "It would be a great thing not only for myself but also for my family."


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