Ole Miss QB Matt Corral tuning out preseason hype, focusing on polishing his skill set
OXFORD, Miss.— All great quarterbacks are known for having short memories and the ability to tune out the noise — both the good and the bad. 2021 Heisman candidate Matt Corral of Ole Miss is no exception.
The country’s No. 1 returning quarterback (3rd overall last season) in ESPN’s Total QBR rankings knows that last season’s experiences on the All-SEC stage have helped prepare him for the big push that’s coming, and that started yesterday with the beginning of spring camp.
As last season began, redshirt sophomore Corral was battling for the starting quarterback job. This year is already different for the Ventura, Calif. native. For the first time in his Ole Miss career, he will have the same offensive coordinator he had the prior season when he teams up again with Jeff Lebby.
He will also have expectations following him into the season, as many think he will battle with Georgia’s J.T. Daniels for preseason first-team All-SEC accolades. But Corral isn’t listening to what’s being said. He’s zoned in on getting better.
“I don’t even acknowledge it. Yeah, I hear it. I hear it around. I’m just trying to focus on being the best teammate and player I can be.”
Ole Miss QB Matt Corral on the hype surrounding him
Head coach Lane Kiffin believes not only having the same coaches, but the same schemes for consecutive years will only improve Corral’s performance, explaining that this season he and Coach Lebby can use the spring to help Corral with areas of improvement.
“Now we do know some issues that have popped up, after having a season of playing with him,” Kiffin commented. “And so we’re able to work on those and he can take the next step from instead of being an elite college quarterback for seven or eight of the ten games, to doing it all the time.”
Corral echoes his head coach’s sentiments. Last year was a record-setting one through the air for the junior signal-caller, but one where he says he knows he has room for improvement.
“We know my mistakes and we know what to work on,” Corral said. “So, they’re harping me every day on what to do to get better. And it’s nothing that I don’t know. So, just taking the leap that I made from last year to this year.”
The fact Corral does not have to learn a completely new offense this spring also gives him an opportunity to grow in other ways. He says he knows exactly what he wants to focus on enhancing.
“My leadership,” Corral said. “I did a good job of just being a vocal leader last year, but now just growing on that and just being that dude, that guy that has that ‘it factor’ of when he walks in the room, that people know that I’m present in that seat, and just bringing that type of energy to a film room, to a team and to the guys in the huddle so that when I’m making that play call, they know I’ve got them.”
Talented QB Room
The QB room will once again be filled with talent. Kinkead Dent is one option as a backup for Corral, but many also wonder about the future of John Rhys Plumlee who is currently on the Ole Miss baseball team — and who played slot receiver in the Rebels’ win over Indiana in the Outback Bowl.
Although he has traded his cleats for spikes this spring, Plumlee is not scarce around the Manning Center.
“He was actually here this morning, early this morning and popped in, to say ‘hi’ to the quarterback meeting,” Kiffin said of Plumlee.
“We let the guys, when they play two sports, fully commit to the other sport — even though you can say they’re on our tab or whatever if you put it from scholarship standpoint. It’s just not fair otherwise to the player.”
Kiffin on two-sport athletes at Ole Miss
Kiffin commented on watching Plumlee play baseball over the weekend. “Just to see him, I was able to go out to the game and see him this weekend, and it is just pretty neat for him to be that competitive, even to make a team, let alone be on the field in conference games just speaks to what a great athlete he is.”
Plumlee started in centerfield Sunday and helped Ole Miss complete a three-game sweep of Auburn.
— Ole Miss Baseball (@OleMissBSB) March 24, 2021
The other quarterback garnering attention is true freshman Luke Altmyer. The Starkville freshman arrived on campus in January and is competing this spring.
Through limited exposure, Kiffin already likes what he sees from him.
“Very natural thrower, very smart in the meetings,” Kiffin said. “The ability to throw the ball, I think there’s too much credit probably given to coaching on that. You see a guy throw in his natural release and stuff, and to me, they really get it or not and you’re not going to do a whole lot about it coaching. It’s good to see that he is natural and smooth. And the ball comes off his hand really good.”
That is an appropriate way to describe the Ole Miss quarterback situation this spring.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.