By the very nature of their position, college quarterbacks are Big Men On Campus.
That is especially true for quarterbacks at major football powers, especially those in the South and particularly those in the Southeastern Conference.
The names are familiar to college football fans—and Heisman Trophy voters—from the time when they are being recruited as high school players right up until they play their final college game. This year the names in the SEC are familiar — Tyler Wilson, Aaron Murray, Tyler Bray and AJ McCarron among the most prominent.
Now there is one other name to add to the list — Bo Wallace of Ole Miss.
Wallace did not even win the starting job for Hugh Freeze’s Rebels until prior to the opening game. He battled West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti for the position. Wallace won the job and now he’s winning over Ole Miss fans with his outstanding play on the field.
It’s only two games, but Wallace is justifying his position as the starter. In the Rebels’ opening game 49-7 win over Central Arkansas, Wallace got the majority of the snaps and responded with a 20 of 24 passing effort for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He also led Ole Miss in rushing with 82 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Even with his outstanding game, Freeze was not ready to give Wallace the starting job for the rest of the season—only for the next game.
“Bo started this game, and he’ll start the next one,” Freeze said. “But again, I’m not ready to say that Barry is out of it. Barry did some real nice things too, but certainly Bo had a great game, and I’ve always known that he’s a gamer.”
Wallace, in an understatement that is typical of the humble Rebel quarterback, said, “It was really fun out there.”
Wallace followed up the Central Arkansas game with another solid performance against UTEP. He was 15-of-22 for 174 yards and three touchdowns while rushing 11 times for 53 yards and a touchdown.
“I played well, but the second half got a little sloppy,” Wallace said of the 28-10 win. “We’ll go into this week and work on those things.”
In his first two games, Wallace is putting up Heisman Trophy-like numbers. He’s 35-for-46 for 438 yards passing and five touchdowns against only one interception. He’s also rushed for a team leading 135 yards on 34 carries and added two more touchdowns. And he’s put a solid hold on the starting quarterback job.
“Bo Wallace is going to start again,” Freeze said of the upcoming Texas game. “He’s the guy we’re going to go with right now. We’ll always have a package ready for Barry Brunetti. He adds something of value to this football team. We’re going to try our best to have him ready because you know in the stuff we do we’re one play away from him being the guy.
“It’s not so much that Barry has not performed, Bo has just been solid. He seems like he’s moved us almost every possession he’s been in there. I’m sure you’re not through seeing Barry,” Freeze said.
But for the moment, Wallace is enjoying the perks of being the starting quarterback at Ole Miss. When he walks around the Oxford campus, people notice him just like they used to when Archie Manning or Eli Manning or Charlie Conerly or Jake Gibbs or Jimmy Lear was spotted among the other students.
In short, Bo Wallace is now a rock star, much to Freeze’s dismay.
“The last thing we want is him thinking he’s a rock star,” Freeze said. “He’s actually a very humble kid. He’s all boy and can certainly find himself in some situations that all young men can find themselves in. I hope he’s getting it. To be the quarterback at Ole Miss, you’re just not a normal kid from Giles County, Tennessee anymore.
“He’s played well. Everybody who didn’t recognize him probably does now. That’s something (QB coach) Dan (Werner) and I talk to him quite often about. All joking aside, he’s a very humble kid. Him playing well is not going to his head. It really drives him and he wants to do better.
“I don’t have to worry about his ego. You do worry about him recognizing the actual magnitude that this position has at a place like Ole Miss,” Freeze said.
Wallace will be facing his first major test this Saturday when the Texas Longhorns come to Oxford.
“We’re not going to change a single thing,” Freeze said. “We’ll approach it the same exact way that I approached games when I was at Lambuth, in other conferences or even in high school. We’ll treat it the same way. Hopefully you won’t notice a difference. Saturday night there will be a little more excitement around. Our young kids will have to handle that emotionally and mentally. We won’t treat our preparation any differently.”
The question is how will Ole Miss’ newest rock star react with the Longhorns across the line of scrimmage. It will be another step for Wallace and the Rebels as they try to take another step up college football’s ladder.
“It’d be hard to say that they’re where we want them to be,” said Freeze of the Rebels’ program at this stage of the season. “We wish we had some more depth and we were more talented at certain spots. Our kids have put their heart and soul into it. They’re giving us great effort.”
If the Rebels are to go 3-0 on the season it will take another great effort, especially from their rock star quarterback.