Florida staff has history with Ole Miss QBs Matt Corral, John Rhys Plumlee
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Florida staff has history with Ole Miss QBs Corral, Plumlee

Ole Miss quarterbacks Matt Corral (right) and John Rhys Plumlee.
Ole Miss quarterbacks Matt Corral (right) and John Rhys Plumlee. (Joshua McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics)

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No. 5 Florida has spent time preparing for both Ole Miss quarterbacks ahead of the season opener, and the UF coaching staff is very familiar with them.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham expects to see Matt Corral and John Rhys Plumee on Saturday, and first-year Rebels coach Lane Kiffin hasn’t named a starter.

“We just gotta be ready to play both,” Grantham said. “I think both are good players. I think both of them can throw it, both of them can run it.”

The first scholarship offer Plumee received as a three-star recruit in Mississippi was from then-MSU coach Dan Mullen, he said Monday. Corral, a former Rivals100 member, was committed to the Gators at the time of Mullen’s hiring.

After joining his UF staff on Dec. 10, 2017, the first recruiting visit Brian Johnson made was to Corral the next day.

“I remember going to see Matt,” Johnson said. “I got hired that Sunday and I was on a plane from Houston to L.A. to go see him first thing Monday morning.

“I met Coach [Mullen] out there, we got a chance to visit with him for a little bit. I don’t think he ever made it to his official visit here. He decided to sign with Ole Miss.”

Corral tweeted a photo with Mullen and Johnson, saying he would see them that weekend. But three days after that in-home visit, he switched his commitment and never made the trip to Gainesville.

Less than a week after that decision, Mullen and Johnson flipped Emory Jones from Ohio State.

“I got to meet him just the one time, went out there and visited him,” Mullen said of Corral. “He seemed like a nice kid, a nice family. He’s a good quarterback, has a live arm, can make a lot of different throws, deceptively athletic in that. For a guy that’s credited to be a passer, he’s pretty athletic and can extend plays, make things happen out there on the field."

Plumlee is more of a dual-threat QB, but in high school Mullen actually offered him as a cornerback. With a 40 yard-dash reportedly in the 4.35 range, Mullen thinks Plumlee would time faster than former Gator C.J. Henderson (4.39).

“I don’t know if we have anyone as fast as him on our team,” Mullen said of Plumlee. “I was the first person to offer him at Mississippi State back in the day. He came up and he is an EXPLOSIVELY fast player.

“When he first came up, we were looking at him as a corner. He wasn’t starting at quarterback. He was playing DB and he can fly. He has elite, elite, elite speed and is a game-breaker. He can break a game open at any time.”

Johnson remembers having Plumlee in camp and his blazing speed. He also watched Corral in the 2019 Egg Bowl and has been impressed with him.

“He can really roll,” Johnson said of Plumlee. “He can fly. He’s very dynamic as an athlete and makes a bunch of game-breaking plays. Luckily, I don’t have to be Coach Grantham this week.

“[Corral]’s obviously a guy that was really highly recruited and I’ve had a chance to watch him play a little bit throughout the course of his career. He’s a really, really talented player.”

Corral made four starts in 10 games played last season, leading the team with 1,362 passing yards and six passing touchdowns. Plumlee started eight games, setting the freshman rushing record with 1,023 yards and scoring 16 total TDs (four passing, 12 rushing).

“They're both very good players, and you gotta respect both of them,” Grantham said. “When you look at Matt, he's a guy that has mobility, he can escape and do those things. But he can throw the ball down the field and make some throws that way. So, from that standpoint, I'm sure that they feel that that gives them a chance to make some plays.

“And then when you look at Plumlee, he’s a guy that was really dynamic last year against LSU, Auburn, Alabama as far as running the ball. I mean, the guy’s got elite speed. He can really extend plays with his feet. … When Plumlee’s in there, you watch him. He does have elite speed and he can make things happen.”

Florida’s returning defenders have seen mobile quarterbacks before, but none as fast as Plumlee. Perhaps Mullen made those comments about his speed to challenge his players.

“We just have to make sure that we contain him,” cornerback Marco Wilson said of Plumlee. “We’re well aware that he can run, the guy is fast. We’ve got to make sure we keep an eye on that. Don’t get lazy in our techniques up front and make sure we hone in on that.”

If Corral ended up at UF, Wilson would have faced him regularly in practice. Does he owe the former Gators commit some picks Saturday?

“I feel like I owe every quarterback some picks,’ Wilson said. “I’m just ready to compete against him. I know he's a good player. His decision to leave Florida, that's on him. I hope he's successful at Ole Miss, just not this week.”