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QB Quandary: Ole Miss and Troy both have quarterback decisions to make

QB Quandary: Ole Miss and Troy both have quarterback decisions to make

OXFORD, Miss.Before they square off as adversaries next month, Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin and Troy’s Jon Sumrall find themselves in the same boat – answering the media’s questions on the first day of fall practice about who will be the starting quarterback when the teams meet Sept. 3.

Kiffin has a returning quarterback, Luke Altmyer, who is being challenged by a Pac-12 transfer, Jaxson Dart, from USC for the starting job.

Sumrall has returning starter Gunnar Watson trying to hold onto his position after the arrival of Pac 12-transfer from Utah, Peter Costelli.

In his third year, the first without Matt Corral under center for the Rebels, Kiffin knows the criteria he needs to fill to name a season-opening starter.

We’re looking for the guy that leads the team and moves the team the best and the intangibles within that are timing, accuracy and decision making. But that’s also why we chart things by production, by series once we get into scrimmages….This many series and this is how many points this team scores so that’s the bottom line, taking care of the ball and scoring.”

Coach Kiffin on QBs after the Rebels’ first practice of the fall

Altmyer and Dart looking forward to competition

The decision Kiffin must make has the Ole Miss duo looking forward to the quarterback competition in camp.

Luke Altmyer passing against Auburn on October 30th, 2021 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, AL.
(Photo by Joshua McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics)

”I’d be lying to say it (the competition) doesn’t (motivate me),” Altmyer said Wednesday. 

It’s obviously there and it’s hard not to see…I can’t let that get into my head. I believe in myself what I can do. I believe I’m a great quarterback and I think I can lead this team to a lot of wins.

Luke Altmyer on the QB competition

Dart, who played in six games for USC last season, is not going to shy away from the competition, either.

USC Transfer Jaxson Dart drops back to pass in practice. (Photo: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)

“I think that pressure just comes with being a quarterback,” Dart said. 

You always have to go through it wherever you go. There are definitely times you hold yourself to such a high standard and you drop for a day and that standard is not met, sometimes I feel down. But I think with that…any quarterback who’s been able to have any transition with a new offense into a new place in general, that takes a little bit of time.

Jaxson Dart

Dart was asked about the move from USC to Ole Miss. “There’s some transition,” he began. 

“There were some times in spring where I felt uncomfortable here and there, whether it be just me not fully understanding a play or just not having many reps at it in the past. But with time and me being able to have this first summer and learn from the good things I did in the spring or things I need to improve on…that’s been super huge for my development and makes me really excited for fall camp,” Dart added.

Troy’s Two QBs

Across the state line in Alabama, Coach Sumrall is looking for the same thing Kiffin is in Oxford. 

“I thought early they all threw it well, especially in the team run and pass-action pass period where we got some shots behind the defense a little bit,” Sumrall said of his quarterbacks after the Trojans’ first practice. 

They all did some good things. Gunnar has improved his body as a whole, and his arm has gotten a little bit better as well. Peter is throwing the ball well, and the thing that jumps out about him is he can run, so from a mobility standpoint, he shows he’s got some things he does differently.

Coach Sumrall on his two QBs

Like their Ole Miss counterparts, the Trojans’ duo is also looking forward to battling to see who gets to take the first snap at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in four weeks and Watson is in familiar territory.

“(The competition has) been like that for three years; I’m used to it,” Watson said.

It’s nice to have someone to compete with you, so don’t get lackadaisical; you’re always out here competing; I’m used to it.

Troy’s Gunnar Watson on the QB battle

Gunnar Watson is one of head coach Jon Sumrall’s options for Troy QB. (Photo: Montgomery Advertiser)

Watson does have the edge in experience over Costelli. The redshirt freshman sat out last year at Utah and his senior year of high school was cancelled due to COVID-19. In Troy, he is just happy to be able to be on the field and compete for a starting job.

Peter Costelli, a transfer from Utah, is competing with Gunnar Watson for starting QB duties at Troy.

“It was good working with the team and being out here; it’s been a while, and I’m happy to be back on the field,” Costelli said. “Gunnar is a really good quarterback, and I think our whole QB room is really solid. Coach always says we’re not competing against each other; we’re competing with each other. We’re always helping each other, I’m always asking him questions, and he’s teaching me a lot.”

No set timetable for announcing starters

Neither Sumrall nor Kiffin has a timetable for announcing a starter, but at Ole Miss there is a philosophy.

“Anytime in these (quarterback competitions), you would like to have it sooner than later, but it’s like everything we do here, you’re dealing with analytics,” Kiffin said. 

The more information you have the better you can make a decision. We can’t rush that. One time, for sure, I can remember where we’ve done that and made the wrong decision because we didn’t have enough information. However long that takes. Ideally, I’ve never liked that to go into a season, but we never rule that out, but that would not be ideal.

Lane Kiffin on QB timetable

Season Opener

Ole Miss and the Troy Trojans kick off the season Sept. 3 at 3 p.m., in a game that will be aired on the SEC Network.

(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)

Steve Barnes
Steve Barnes

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.

About The Author

Steve Barnes

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.

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