No quarterback has generated more buzz four weeks into the 2021 college football season than Ole Miss’ Matt Corral — but the test he faces on Saturday will be the biggest yet of his Rebels career.
Corral, the key cog in Lane Kiffin’s offensive juggernaut, will lead No. 12 Ole Miss on the road against top-ranked Alabama, a team against which he completed 21 of 28 passes for 365 yards and two touchdowns in 2020. He also added 40 yards on the ground in the 63-48 loss.
The redshirt junior has been excellent this season, throwing for 997 yards and nine touchdowns to zero interceptions through just three games. Moreover, he’s coming off a performance against Tulane in which he threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another four, becoming the first player in SEC history to achieve such a feat. The Green Wave certainly are no Crimson Tide, but Corral seems ready ahead of his mammoth task:
“We’re not worried about who we’re playing,” Corral told reporters this week. “We’re worried about how we handle each practice individually. Even though they are a great team and they’re the best team we’ll play this year, we’re not worried about them right now.”
Corral is saying and doing all the right things ahead of Ole Miss’ matchup. But his has been a winding road to Oxford, Miss., where he hopes to lead the Rebels to glory they haven’t enjoyed in several years.
With that, here’s everything you need to know about Corral, including how he got to Ole Miss and his coach’s scouting report of him:
Corral hails from Southern California
Corral is from Ventura, Calif., but like many recent Southern California star quarterbacks, ventured away from home for college.
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and Georgia quarterback JT Daniels are two other high-profile SEC QBs who also hail from Southern California. Corral and Young have never faced each other as starting QBs.
“I’ve always seen it as a kind of tight-knight community as far as quarterbacks across the country, but especially quarterbacks in So Cal and in the same area,” Young said (via the Associated Press). “So, I’ve always known of (Corral). I’ve worked with him a few times, I’ve talked to him a few times.
“So, I have a lot of respect for his game.”
Lane Kiffin said Corral has ‘generational arm talent’
Kiffin’s the mastermind behind Ole Miss’ offense, but he still needs the right quarterback to make it work as well as it has. Enter Corral, whom Kiffin claims has “generational arm talent.”
“Ole Miss fans need to appreciate this while you have it,” Kiffin said, via The Athletic. “This is a generational arm talent that you’re going to get spoiled with. Not too many people ever can make the plays that he’s making, and there are a lot on Sundays that start who don’t make them.”
Indeed, it didn’t take long before Kiffin understood what type of player he had. The Athletic reports how Kiffin, in his first year, made a discovery about Corral while watching him throw. From The Athletic: “Kiffin texted Steve Clarkson, the California-based quarterbacks coach who has worked with multiple college and NFL stars through the years — and who worked with a younger Corral — and said he’d inherited a first-round quarterback from predecessor Matt Luke.”
Kiffin isn’t the only one enamored with Corral’s arm, either. 247Sports national recruiting analyst Greg Biggins also called it “generational” — while he was still in high school.
Decommitted from USC after fight with Wayne Gretzky’s son
Corral strongly considered hometown USC as his preferred college of choice. Indeed, he committed to the Trojans with the intent of playing there. But an in-school fight with Tristan Gretzky, son of Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, led Corral to transfer from Oaks Christian High School, a private school in Westlake Village, Calif.
According to a TMZ report, Corral and Tristan Gretzky got into it at a basketball game, with the latter eventually telling CBS Sports “that kid, his dad, went through hoops to f—k my life up.”
Corral ended up at Long Beach Poly. But USC, fearing maturity issues, backed off the quarterback. He later decommitted in June 2017. Three months later, he committed to Florida coach Jim McElwain, who was subsequently fired following a 3-4 start to the 2017 season. He remained committed to the Gators after Dan Mullen took the program over, but again started looking elsewhere after the school — which told him he was the only quarterback it was interested in — offered Terry Wilson, who ended up at Kentucky.
Impromptu visit from Matt Luke secured Ole Miss commitment
Corral remained committed to the Gators through mid-December, and even had an official visit planned for the school. According to The Athletic, an impromptu coach from then-Rebels coach Matt Luke was the ultimate deciding factor in Corral committing to Ole Miss.
Florida sent a limousine to pick Corral and his parents up from their house and drive them to the airport for their trip to Gainesville. Shortly before the limousine arrived, however, Luke showed up at their house. From Peter Corral, Matt’s father:
“Coach Luke and Coach (Phil) Longo came to our house,” Peter told The Athletic. “They flew in from Mississippi to come and see Matt before he went off to Florida. We’re all like, ‘Why are they here?’ And Coach Luke says,‘You know what? Mr. and Mrs. Corral, you know, Matt’s going off to Florida and we wanted to wish him well on Florida’s trip. We’re here to let him know we’re with him and he’s our guy. We’re coming out here to let him know that. We want him to have fun in Florida, but Mississippi, we want him. We love him.’
“That was huge. We never made it to Florida.”
Corral committed to the Rebels on Dec. 14, and hasn’t looked back since.
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