Photo credit: John Bowen
Germany Law Firm - Mississippi Scoreboard

By Billy Watkins

Hopefully, Ole Miss fans have simmered down about quarterback Matt Corral finishing seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Let it go, people. A great player won it (Alabama quarterback Bryce Young), and while it would’ve been cool for Corral to be among the four finalists this past weekend in New York, he has more important duties in the coming weeks and months.

The Sugar Bowl vs. Baylor on Jan. 1. The NFL Scouting Combine in February. And the NFL Draft in Las Vegas April 28-30 where he is expected to be a first-round pick.

And, yes, Corral is playing in the bowl game — unlike many NFL prospects in recent years who did not want to risk injury.

When asked following the regular-season finale if he would play, Corral seemed almost stunned that anyone doubted it.

At Monday’s first bowl press conference in Oxford, Corral explained why he wants one more game with his teammates: “I definitely wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for them. I’m not going to just leave. 

“Yeah, I know what’s on the other side. I know what’s ahead. God’s got me. I’m not worried about the negative part. If that does happen then, shoot, it wasn’t meant to be. That’s how I live my life and how I go about it. I’m going to give these guys all I’ve got until it’s over.”

That sums up the level of Corral’s commitment, faith, respect and genuine love of the game that helped him lead Ole Miss to its first 10-win regular season and the. No. 8 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings.


His approach is one of the reasons pro scouts rave about him.

In a Saturday story by New York Post sportswriter Steve Serby, draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr. listed Corral the No. 21 overall prospect in the coming draft and the third-best QB, just behind Pitt’s Kenny Pickett (18th) and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder (19th).

Kiper told Serby that each quarterback has issues for scouts to carefully ponder — Pickett’s hand size, Ridder’s accuracy and Corral’s height and weight.

But this is how Kiper, always known as a harsh critic, described Corral, listed at 6-2, 205: “Toughest quarterback you’ll ever find. If you look at him from 10, 15, 20 years ago, he wouldn’t look the part. He’s not 6-3, he’s not 215, 220 pounds. But tough as nails, high pain tolerance, he can really spin it. He’s a quarterback version of [215-pound former Steelers middle linebacker] Jack Lambert.”

Other draft analysts project Corral higher.

CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson and Chris Trapasso have him the third player selected and the first quarterback. Wrote Wilson on Saturday: “Corral is the best QB in this class and he was much improved in ’21 after a solid ’20 campaign.”

Sports Illustrated’s Zack Patraw on Dec. 8 predicted Corral to go 8th overall, the second quarterback.

Patraw wrote: “Very good underneath accuracy, Corral is able to get the ball to tightly covered receivers. He is a capable off-platform thrower, getting rid of the football under pressure and improvising successfully.”

On Dec. 1, Drafttek had Corral the second player taken, the first QB.

Certainly, a lot can change between now and late April, but Corral has made the most of his opportunities so far.

He played the second half of the season on a bum ankle. It restricted his movement and took away half his game. It also limited the Rebels’ in the red zone, where Corral time and again before the injury lowered his shoulder to reach the end zone.

And it must be mentioned that two of his top three receivers missed significant time with injuries. 

Still, he threw for 20 touchdowns and 3,339 yards. He was intercepted only four times. He also rushed for 597 yards and 11 touchdowns. Only three other SEC quarterbacks in the past decade surpassed 3,000 yards passing and 500 yards rushing.


I remain astonished that the Ole Miss beat writer for the Clarion Ledger said in a Dec. 1 article that Corral never put the team on his back.

That is absurd.

What I saw was Corral put the team on his back the first play of the opening game — a 24-yard strike to Dontario Drummond — and still had it up there as he carried the Egg Bowl trophy off the field Thanksgiving night in Starkville. 

Yes, the Rebels had the top rushing offense in the SEC, a quarterback’s best friend. But Corral was the third-leading rusher on the team. And, yes, the defense improved steadily throughout the season, holding the final six SEC opponents to a 21.8-point average per game.

But everything about the 2021 Ole Miss football team — and head coach Lane Kiffin pointed to this at every opportunity — was uplifted by Corral’s leadership and devotion to his coaches and teammates.

All you had to do to see it for yourself was watch him play.