Ole Miss Ready to Grow with Bo Wallace
By BJ Bennett
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In a conference filled with great quarterbacks, Bo Wallace is one of the most exciting. He needs polish, maybe more time, but the potential is off the charts.
Only four returning quarterbacks in all of BCS college football last season threw for over 2,900 yards and rushed for at least 390: Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Clemson's Tajh Boyd, Arizona State's Taylor Kelly and Bo Wallace from Ole Miss. Of those names, Manziel and Boyd are national celebs. Kelly is a star out west. Wallace has a brand that is still being defined.
The long-haired Rebel quarterback, think Sunshine from Remember the Titans, finished his prep career at Giles High School in Pulaski, Tennessee as an innovator and a record-breaker. He led the Bobcats to a state championship, where he was named MVP, setting the state record as a senior with 4,195 total yards. Wallace finished that fall ranked in the top five in Tennessee history in passing yards, total touchdowns and passing touchdowns.
Wallace participated in the Army All-American Combine and was an EA Sports Elite 11 participant. Despite that, the 6'4'', 195-pound signal caller reportedly received just one FBS scholarship offer out of high school, Arkansas State. At the time, current Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze was the offensive coordinator for the Red Wolves. He was well-aware of Wallace's unique talents. The young signal caller promptly came to Jonesboro and redshirted. At the time, the start was a modest one. In retrospect, however, it was a key part of his overall development.
It was a transfer decision, though to a junior college, that first brought Wallace to the Magnolia State. East Mississippi Community College presented an opportunity to start anew. Wallace took full advantage. He led the Lions to a perfect 12-0 season, the NJCAA national championship and set single season JUCO records for total yards, passing yards and touchdown passes. A first-team All-American, Wallace was named the National Offensive Player of the Year.
In the NJCAA national championship bout, East Mississippi took on previously-undefeated Arizona Western. On the biggest stage, Wallace had his best performance. He took home Offensive MVP honors, as he did in his high school state title game, by throwing for 486 yards and a record seven touchdowns. He finished his brief career as one of the most accomplished junior college players ever.
That postseason performance served as a springboard to Ole Miss for Wallace, who moved 140 miles north from Scooba to Oxford. There, it didn't take long for the newcomer to make his mark. Wallace would go on to complete 64% of his passes for 2,994 yards and score 30 total touchdowns. Perhaps most impressively, he would help the Rebels improve from just two wins in 2011 to seven wins, an Egg Bowl triumph and a postseason victory in 2012.
This summer, Wallace is one of the centerpieces of a team that has suddenly become the trendy pre-season pick in the SEC. With that attention comes a higher standard.
"We would like to win more than six games," Wallace acknowledged at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama. "We were very close last year. Those games that we lost real close, with the guys that are becoming veterans, we would like to win those games this year."
At at event prominently featuring Manziel, Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell, among others, questions were posed about Wallace's continued progression and just how critically his personal development is intertwined with the top-to-bottom product for the Rebels.
"I do think he understands going into it now that he knows he is the starter. A lot of the weight of the success of our offense will come down ultimately to how he performs," Freeze admitted. "Now, that can motivate some men. It can make some men tight. I don't think it will make him tight at all. He's a very good competitor. He's a tough kid."
For the first time in his collegiate career, Wallace is returning to the same school. He is doing that, alongside McCarron, as the only quarterback in the SEC with a national championship under his belt. Wallace has the skill set. He has the attitude. He has the rings. Wallace now has some footing. In he, running back Jeff Scott, receiver Donte Moncrief and others, some believe the Rebels have the talent needed to punch through the top in the toughest division in college football.
"I think our confidence level is higher, but at the same time, I think expectations as a team, we kind of leave that to the fans and media to talk about," Wallace explained. "We just control what we can in our building and know that we have the players to play in this league and play in the SEC West and control what we do every day in the building."
In a conference filled with great quarterbacks, Wallace is one of the most exciting. He needs polish, maybe more time, but the potential is off the charts. This is a player capable of shouldering his way into any conversation. As Wallace has done at previous stops, he's hoping to do the same for his team.