For Randall Mackey, the 2010 season was a learning experience that he would prefer not to repeat.
While Ole Miss struggled through a 4-8 season, Mackey watched from the sidelines. Both aspects of the game were uncharted territory for Mackey, who had never experienced a losing season since taking over as Port Sulphur’s starting quarterback as an eighth grader.
Relocating to Bastrop as a sophomore in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina, Mackey was 35-0 with three state titles as a starter for the Rams. In two years as the starting quarterback at East Mississippi Community College, Mackey directed the Lions to an 18-3 record and the first state championship in school history.
After redshirting at Ole Miss last season, the 5-11, 195-pound Mackey is competing for a starting job in college football’s premier conference — the SEC. He is currently locked in a three-way battle with Barry Brunetti, a sophomore transfer from West Virginia, and junior college transfer Zack Stoudt.
Home for a brief visit, Mackey discussed taking snaps from center for the first time in his career, his academic progress and the Ole Miss quarterback race among other topics during an interview at the Bastrop High fieldhouse.
BDE: How difficult was it to sit out last season as a redshirt?
Randall Mackey: It was hard because I wanted to play, but it was beneficial for me in the long run. I was able to get to learn the offense, get bigger and stronger and get adjusted to a new school.
Game day was the hardest part. All I could do was go out on the field for warmups. Just getting out there and seeing all the fans was exciting, then I would have to go stand on the sidelines and watch. But at least I have the experience and know what to expect now.
BDE: Coming from a junior college, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced in adjusting to a bigger school?
Mackey: The size of the players and the speed of the game were amazing. Everything moves so must faster than in juco. You just have to stay focused and keep working at it.
Off the field, everywhere you go, people are going to know you. There’s no use trying to hide. You just have to be yourself, try to stay out of trouble and not do anything stupid.
As far as the academic side, if you don’t go to class you get punished and you don’t want to do the punishment. Over there, all you have time to do is go to school and play ball.
BDE: How long did it take you to adapt to taking the snap in a traditional formation?
Page 2 of 3 - Mackey: It wasn’t that tough. I could always take the snap, but didn’t want to because I’m short. I always liked to stay in the gun so I could see better.
BDE: How are you doing in the classroom?
Mackey: School has been going good. I’m majoring in criminal justice with a minor in history.
You either make the grades or you don’t play. We have study hall and tutors, so there’s no excuse not to make the grades.
BDE: What went wrong for the Rebels last season?
Mackey: It was a horrible season. We had a lot of seniors coming back and had high expectations and went 4-8.
We lost our first game (49-48 to Jacksonville State) and that kind of set the tone for the whole season.
We beat Tulane (27-13) the next week, then lost our first conference game to Vanderbilt (28-14). Then, we won two in a row (55-38 vs. Fresno St. and 42-35 vs. Kentucky), and it pretty much fell apart after that. It was just a bad season.
BDE: Why is this year going to be better?
Mackey: This year is going to be different because we’re more focused. We had a good spring and we’re going to work hard all summer.
We’re trying to go to Atlanta — that’s our goal this year.
BDE: What improvements have you made since arriving at Ole Miss?
Mackey: I’ve improved a lot with my communication — just getting the plays in.
Everything else has basically been the same. I’m just trying to become a leader for the team.
BDE: I understand some of your teammates were having problems understanding you in the huddle during the spring. Have you been able to get that issue resolved?
Mackey: I had a couple of problems with that in the spring, but coach (David) Lee has been working with me and I have gotten better at my communication skills over time.
BDE: Did you have a good spring?
Mackey: I had a real good spring and we had a good spring as a team.
It was a lot of work — coach Lee will work you all day — but spring was fun. We had three good scrimmages against each other.
BDE: Do you expect to be the starting quarterback this season?
Mackey: It’s still a tie between all three of us. Hopefully, I’ll be the starter. If not, I’ll just keep practicing and doing everything I can to get better.
Page 3 of 3 - BDE: If you are not the starting quarterback, would you be open to a position change?
Mackey: I would, but right now quarterback is working real good for me. I’ve improved a lot.
Right now, I don’t see twhere (a position change) is needed.
BDE: How is the new offensive coordinator (David Lee) working out?
Mackey: Coach Lee’s a real good coach. He has an NFL mindset. He’s going to have you concentrating on what you are doing and make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice.
He’s worked with a lot of good quarterbacks in the league, so you can learn a lot from him.
BDE: What are your goals for the upcoming season?
Mackey: My main goal is just to win. Getting to Atlanta is the only goal right now. We have to win the Egg Bowl, too. Mississippi State has beaten us two years in a row now. Coach (Houston Nutt) has been reminding us of that.
BDE: Tell us about the Egg Bowl.
Mackey: It’s crazy and intense (shaking his head). It’s north Mississippi vs. south Mississippi. It’s hard to describe. I really can’t put it into words. It’s something you have to experience for yourself.
BDE: How have you been spending your break?
Mackey: I’ve been spending time with my brother, Seth, and my mom (Carla). I don’t get to see them much, so when I come to Bastrop I spend as much time with them as I can.
I’ve been hangin’ out around here (the Bastrop High fieldhouse), lifting weights and running.
BDE: What are your plans for the summer?
Mackey: I go back to Ole Miss Sunday and we start our summer program Tuesday. I’ll come back home for a week or two, then it’ll be time to start the season.