December 13, 2010

Lure of playing time in SEC pulls Stoudt to UM

One week ago, Zack Stoudt was "definitely" headed to Kansas to work with a position coach and head coach he'd grown quite fond of.

Then Ole Miss entered the picture.

One whirlwind week later, everything had changed.

"I knew nothing about Ole Miss and I didn't know how serious they were about me," Stoudt said Monday evening. "Once I took the visit, that changed."

Stoudt, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound quarterback from Iowa Western Community College, committed to Ole Miss Monday. The son of former NFL and USFL standout Cliff Stoudt will arrive in Oxford in January, compete for the Rebels' starting job and have two years of eligibility remaining.

Stoudt's decision, he said, was a testament to three things - a chance to play in the Southeastern Conference, Houston Nutt's dogged pursuit and the opportunity to win immediate playing time.

"It came down to the opportunity to play in the SEC," Stoudt said. "On top of that, the opportunity to play at Ole Miss is very good. Coach Nutt is a great guy and I really liked (Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks) Coach (Dave) Rader. …They need a guy to come in and the spot is wide open."

Stoudt said he researched the Rebels' quarterback situation "quite a bit." Ole Miss' 2010 starter, Jeremiah Masoli, is out of eligibility. His backup, rising junior Nathan Stanley, played sparingly after starting the Rebels' season opener. Former junior college All-American Randall Mackey redshirted during his first season at Ole Miss.

"I looked up Nathan and saw some of his highlights and I looked up (Mackey)," Stoudt said. "I saw both of them on film. They're both good players and I'm definitely going to have my work cut out for me. I was going to have to compete wherever I went. I'm confident in my ability and if I go in and do my best, I feel I can win the job."

Stoudt said he had lengthy discussions about the future of Ole Miss' offense during his weekend in Oxford. The Rebels were far more run-oriented with Masoli under center than they were in Nutt's first two years at Ole Miss with Jevan Snead operating the offense.

"We definitely talked about that," Stoudt said. "They talked about getting back to being more balanced and being able to throw the ball."

Still, Monday's decision was "really difficult," in large part because of the relationships Stoudt had built with Kansas coach Turner Gill and Jayhawks quarterbacks coach Chuck Long.

"They are a great group of guys," Stoudt said. "Coach Long was as good a guy as I've ever been around. He probably would've been a great coach for me."

Stoudt's other call Monday, the one he made to Nutt and Rader, was much easier.

"They were excited," Stoudt said. "They both were happy. …I'm sure they were surprised a little bit. I had told them Kansas was very, very high on my list. I told them I needed some questions answered before I changed my mind. They were answered, so I think when I called and told them, they were very excited."

They weren't alone. Stoudt will finish up exams at Iowa Western Wednesday, collect his junior college degree on Saturday and return home to Ohio for the holidays. His thoughts, however, had already shifted to his future.
"I am pretty fired up," Stoudt said. "I'm very excited to have the opportunity to just play in the SEC. It's arguably the best conference and in my opinion, it's the best conference. I'll be playing some of the best players in the country every single week and playing some of the best teams in the country every single week.

"To have an opportunity to be a starting quarterback in the SEC, that's really exciting, especially coming from Columbus, where all you ever hear about is the Big Ten and Ohio State."

Stoudt completed 182 of 344 passes for 2,258 yards last season, including a 446-yard performance in Iowa Western's bowl loss to Snow College. Stoudt, ranked by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 45 junior college prospect, began his college career at Louisville.

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