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ANALYSIS: Fallout from Grant Tisdale’s departure from Ole Miss football

Ole Miss quarterback Grant Tisdale entered the transfer portal late on Tuesday and has left the team, signaling the end of his short stint in Oxford. 

The four-star recruit showed flashes while in a Rebel uniform, yet to say the two-pass-attempt sample size is small would be a dramatic understatement. 

So, who’s really at fault for this situation? It’s easy to say head coach Matt Luke, and by proxy, offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez, who has full autonomy of the offense, really messed this up. There’s a good chance Grant Tisdale had the highest ceiling of any quarterback on the Ole Miss roster in 2019. Yet, by putting him behind both redshirt freshman Matt Corral and fellow true freshman John Rhys Plumlee, Tisdale saw the writing on the wall. His path to legitimate playing time was going to be a very tough road, if possible, at all. 

Now here’s the counter to blaming Luke and Rodriguez: this situation literally happens everywhere. Even the programs considered to have the best leadership at the top deal with extensive transfers, none more so than at the quarterback position. For example, after realizing he wouldn’t beat out Jake Fromm for the starting job, Justin Fields transferred from Georgia to Ohio State. The same situation actually happened the year prior with Fromm and Jacob Eason, when Eason left Georgia for Washington. Like with what’s happening at Ole Miss, where Grant Tisdale was the higher-rated recruit compared to Plumlee in the 2019 class, both Eason and Fields were more touted prospects than from out of college. 

And this is just one example in a litany that has plagued all of the top programs in the nation, from Alabama to Clemson. Southern Methodist University (by the way, a very reasonable destination for a Tisdale return home), is also currently working with a transfer quarterback in Shane Buechele, who left Texas after starting nearly two full seasons. It happens everywhere. 

What was Ole Miss supposed to do? At the end of the 2018 season, Corral was legitimately the only scholarship quarterback on roster. Most programs go into a season with three to four quarterbacks on roster. Ole Miss had one. At the early signing period in December 2018, they added Tisdale and Kinkead Dent. When Rodriguez came in, he got his guy in Plumlee. 

Yes, signing three quarterbacks in one class is uncommon. But they had to fill out a roster, and you’re not intentionally going to do that with lesser players just so they don’t transfer. The team knew what they were getting into. 

“You knew with the amount of freshman quarterbacks that we had that something could potentially happen,” Luke said on Wednesday. “So, was I surprised? No. But at the same time, we’re here to support him. When you look around, that’s just the world that we’re in, with college football and the transfer portal. Especially with the number of quarterbacks as we had in the same class, something was bound to happen.” 

Luke and Rodriguez certainly deserve blame for Tisdale’s departure, but it’s not as clear-cut to just hang it all on their shoulders. So, the real question is, what’s next? 

Obviously, Ole Miss won’t be in a situation they were last offseason, where they desperately needed to add multiple quarterbacks. But, as the coaches acknowledged, you kind of have to account for these sorts of situations when recruiting. A standard timetable is to simply add one quarterback per class, knowing that a) you’ll either have four quarterbacks at all time or b) one will leave and then you have three. 

And that’s what Ole Miss (hopefully) is doing in the 2020 class. Robby Ashford, the number eight dual-threat quarterback and four-star recruit in the 2020 class is committed to Ole Miss. If the Rebels can hang on and sign him, there’s a good chance Ashford – a senior at Hoover High School in Alabama – is actually the future of the position in Oxford. First, they need to get him to actually sign in December. 

So, the fallout is simple: Grant Tisdale is gone and there’s no getting him back. The Ole Miss staff is crossing their fingers they made the right decision in playing Plumlee over Tisdale, and fans get to watch with ‘what could have been’ eyes if Tisdale goes and tears it up elsewhere.