Gameday: Snead remains a top NFL prospect

While Mississippi quarterback Jevan Snead was in the midst of another two-touchdown game last week against Southeastern Louisiana, Georgia's Joe Cox and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett were putting on an air show that ESPN beamed across the country.

Both quarterbacks tossed five touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 52-41 win. But it was Mallett's 408-yard passing performance that prompted several analysts to call the 6-foot-7, 238-pound Michigan transfer the SEC's best NFL quarterback prospect - a label formerly worn by Snead.

Snead gets the spotlight tonight when the fourth-ranked Rebels square off with South Carolina in an ESPN matchup. With 24 NFL scouts expected at Williams-Brice Stadium and a national TV audience watching, a strong showing could enhance Snead's draft credentials and place him among the early Heisman Trophy candidates.

Not that Snead is interested.

"I'm really not looking at it like that. I'd love to do extremely well. That's why I practice and I work as hard as I can, to do the best I can," Snead said this week. "But the reason I do it is for my team and to help us get a win. All I'm focused on is helping my team, and whatever comes after that is just icing on the cake."

Sports Illustrated put Snead on one of the regional covers of its college football preview, and Ole Miss has launched a Web site, need4snead.com, touting the former Texas quarterback as a "national honors candidate," without mentioning the Heisman.

The site lists Snead's statistics in 15 games at Ole Miss, which are impressive but not gaudy. He has no 300-yard passing games - let alone the 400 yards Mallett put up.

But Snead only has four games in which he has attempted 30 passes or more - a product of Rebels coach Houston Nutt's balanced offensive philosophy that might make it tough for Snead to put up Heisman-type numbers.

But it is Snead's 6-foot-3, 220-pound build and his textbook passing form that have caught the eyes of NFL scouts - and opposing coaches.

"He is a good passer," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said. "Last year, when we were out there, I just noticed the way the ball came out of his hand. He threw almost perfect spirals most every time."

USC cornerback Akeem Auguste had a similar assessment.

"He's a great thrower. He stands up in the pocket real strong. He acts like he's got no type of pressure sometimes, and he's real patient," Auguste said. "We've got our hands full this week."

Snead is off to a bit of a slow start. He threw two interceptions and passed for 175 yards in a 45-14 win at Memphis that was close until the fourth quarter.

One of 30 Ole Miss players who had swine flu during the team's open date, Snead came back the following week with a three-touchdown performance against FCS opponent Southeastern Louisiana.

"I was really kind of disappointed in myself, especially the first week," Snead said. "I'm always looking to improve. I'm always looking to just go out and play with all the intensity and passion I can and do the very best I can. ... I know that I still have a long ways to go. But I feel like I've improved thus far."

Snead set a school record by throwing at least two touchdown passes in every game of the Rebels' eight-game winning streak, tied with Southern Miss for the second-longest active streak in the nation.

He owns an 11-4 record as a starter and looks to avenge one of those losses tonight. Snead had a pair of turnovers, including a fumble that Nathan Pepper returned for a touchdown, in USC's 31-24 win in Oxford last season.

"You look at the losses we had last year, and they kind of sting a little bit," Snead said.

Had Spurrier not beaten out Ole Miss for the services of Stephen Garcia, the Gamecocks' quarterback might have been under center for the Rebels tonight instead of Snead. Shortly after Garcia informed former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron he planned to sign with the Gamecocks, Orgeron's staff learned Snead was leaving Texas and looking for a school.

Snead wound up at Ole Miss, where he has helped lead the Rebels to their highest ranking since 1970, when Archie Manning was the quarterback.

Snead takes center stage tonight, and the Gamecocks will try to bring the curtain down on him.

"Good defense can stop just about any quarterback. Hopefully we are going to have good defense here (tonight)," said Spurrier, who caused a controversy in July when he voted Snead ahead of Florida's Tim Tebow on his preseason All-SEC ballot.

"But he is an excellent passer, a big strong guy who can run around a bit. He is a very, very good quarterback, one of the best around."

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.