SEC Media Days: Poised to start, Corral as confident as ever at Ole Miss

Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral moves between interviews Tuesday during SEC Media Days at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

HOOVER, Ala. — Florida fans — those who regularly follow recruiting, at least — are undoubtedly familiar with Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral.

The 6-foot-1, 207-pound redshirt freshman out of Ventura, California, committed to the Gators after the 2017 iteration of Friday Night Lights, Florida’s annual recruiting showcase, and the rest is history.

Following Jim McElwain’s departure from the program and Dan Mullen’s arrival in Gainesville, Corral de-committed and UF subsequently landed fellow four-star quarterback Emory Jones.

Corral quickly found a new home, however, and all accounts point to the pro-style passer thriving since joining the Rebels.

Unlike Jones, Corral — who is the youngest of 42 prospects in attendance at SEC Media Days — is poised to be the starter in Oxford this season after playing in four games and redshirting in 2018.

“Coach (Matt Luke) made me the guy, I feel like I’m responsible for the team. I’m just happy for him picking me for this. And it just shows that he trusts me,” said Corral, adding he’s grown in the eight months since concluding his inaugural season. “I feel like I’m more outspoken, for sure. Now I got a say in stuff.”

Yet despite his perceived inexperience and underclassmen status, Corral is confident as ever, which should come as no surprise to eagle-eyed recruiting aficionados.

“I wanted it this way. It’s part of the reason I came here. Just being a leader is doing what you’re supposed to be doing, setting an example for the young guys,” Corral said, before elaborating on his arrival in Mississippi. “Ole Miss has always been there in my ear since I was in high school, but I never really pictured me being there because I was first committed to a Pac-12 school and I was looking at the Big Ten, and then after my junior year when I committed to Florida, I really wanted to play in the SEC. I could just tell from being at Florida.”

The only underclassmen in attendance at SEC Media Days, Corral didn’t shy away from detailing his departure late in the recruiting cycle from Florida, saying he simply wasn’t a fit for Mullen’s offensive system.

“It was the coaching change and it just didn’t mesh right with me and others,” Corral said. “We had a top-3 class going there, but none of that stuff matters anymore. All I’m worried about is winning games.”

To do that, Corral will need to excel in new offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez’s system.

Formerly the head coach at Michigan, and most recently Arizona, Rodriguez is installing his run-heavy offense in Oxford — although it’s clear he’ll tailor things around Corral’s strengths rather than metaphorically throwing the first-year starter into the fire.

With that said, don’t expect Rodriguez to go easy on the redshirt freshman simply because he’s inexperienced.

“If you know the way he coaches, he’s a perfectionist. He won’t stop until it’s done right. I respond well to that,” Corral said of Rodriguez. “That makes me want to be better.”

Plus, Corral isn’t exactly a stranger to Rodriguez’s play-calling.

“It’s the same offense from my senior year at Long Beach Poly,” Corral said. “The type of offense Rich Rod runs, it’s very similar.”

But this isn’t high school anymore — it’s the SEC West, arguably the toughest division in Power Five football, meaning pundits and analysts aren’t exactly predicting the Rebels to light it up in 2019.

While many college football players choose to block out that outside noise, Corral doesn’t. Those breakdowns and countless offseason predictions? He sees a slew of hot takes and write-offs before and after each practice. As Florida fans know all too well, expect the unexpected when it comes to Corral.

“I have that posted right in my locker. I look at it everyday. Everyone calls us inexperienced, everyone calls us young. But really no one knows what type of potential we have,” Corral said. “Except the people inside that building.”