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Going home: Brunetti to make first career start Saturday

Football Preview 2011
Petre Thomas

 

Saturday afternoon will not arrive soon enough for sophomore quarterback Barry Brunetti.

Brunetti played in four games last year at West Virginia, but his first collegiate start will come Saturday against BYU in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

“It’s exciting, especially being able to start the first game,” Brunetti said after being named the starting quarterback last week. “Just coming into this exciting season and being able to be the first one to take that snap.”

Since being named the starter last week, Brunetti has struggled, due in part to some pressure and distractions that come with the position.

“Everybody reacts differently,” Ole Miss offensive coordinator David Lee said. “It’s an honor to be the University of Mississippi quarterback. To be the quarterback at Ole Miss, behind the tradition that has been here, there’s a lot of responsibility — there’s a lot of pressure.”

Lee went on to say, “He’s got to be able to shut it out as the starting quarterback. The quicker he can do it, the better he’ll play.”

Brunetti admitted the pressure of being named the starting quarterback weighed on him for a few days, but after a weekend watching film on the BYU Cougars, he’s settling into his starting role.

“The first couple of days, I kind of put a little pressure on me,” Brunetti said. “But over the weekend and watching a lot of film, I kind of got a better feel for BYU. It  put me in a more comfortable place.”

Being a Memphis native, Brunetti has also had to deal with the distraction of ticket requests from friends and family from home all week leading up to Saturday’s game. Brunetti speculated that he’ll have “over 50” friends and family in the stands Saturday afternoon.

“It’s a huge distraction,” Brunetti said. “It kind of reminds me of high school.”

However, despite the high school-like tendencies of his family and friends, Brunetti said he is used to it.

“I came here to be close to home, so I’m not going to say it’s something that is making me mad,” Brunetti said. “I’m glad my family wants to come see me play. I’m glad my friends want to come see me play.”

Once Saturday rolls around, Brunetti expects the BYU defense to attempt to exploit his lack of experience in his first collegiate start.

“They’re a great pass defense,” Brunetti said. “They try to fool you in coverage. I’ve kind of got it in my mindset. Since they know I’m a young quarterback – first start – they’re going to try and fool me pre-snap, but I’ll be ready for it.”

Even with an inexperienced quarterback, Lee says Ole Miss will “not play scared.”

“I may be wrong, but we’re going to cut it loose,” Lee said. “We’re playing a team that can score. That doesn’t mean they will score. I hope we shut them out. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re not going to play conservative.”

Brunetti said he is ready for BYU.

“I have to take it one play at a time and just try to lead this team the best way I can,” the quarterback said. “The only thing that’s on my mind is coming out with a victory that day.”