Why Matt Corral's Ole Miss football comments were blown out of proportion
Former Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral generated headline fodder this week at Carolina Panthers training camp when a quote of his was interpreted by some to be expressing regret at signing with Ole Miss.
"I took the easy way out because I felt I could play right away," Corral said. "Knowing what I know now and trusting my instincts and trusting my work ethic, I would have went to a place that would have made me compete.”
Let's break this down. Sure, there's a way to read that as Corral saying he regrets choosing Ole Miss. But that reading feels a little too extreme compared to what was actually said.
Corral's answer was framed around the context of competing for the Panthers' starting job with Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. The message he was trying to communicate was he thrives in competitive circumstances. He went on to talk about how he, Mayfield and Darnold all are competitors and all understand the common goal.
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Any underhanded insults about Ole Miss were clearly incidental, a fact further confirmed by Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin's claim on ESPN's First Take Wednesday that Corral texted him to explain the comments afterward.
Corral's comments were about growth, not changing the past. These words actually go a long way to proving how instrumental coming to Ole Miss was in forging his success, not negating the value of his time in Oxford.
First, a quick recap of Corral's journey: The Southern California native committed to USC for five months in 2016, decommitting around the same time five-star quarterback J.T. Daniels committed to the Trojans. He committed to Florida about a month later, but decommitted in December shortly after Dan Mullen was hired as the Gators' coach and one day before four-star quarterback Emory Jones took his official visit to Gainesville.
That same day, Corral committed to Ole Miss as the only quarterback in the Rebels' 2018 signing class.
Corral was anointed as the future of Ole Miss' quarterback room. But the future didn't come as soon as many would've expected.
He didn't start his true freshman year, playing in four games behind senior Jordan Ta'amu. Rebels coach Matt Luke named Corral the starter the next spring, but Corral only started four games because of nagging injuries, the emergence of freshman John Rhys Plumlee as a rushing threat and the incompatibility of Corral's talents with new offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez's philosophy.
Seeing Corral's name in the transfer portal felt inevitable. But that day never came. After the Rebels hired Kiffin, Corral recommitted to Ole Miss and earned the starting job back. In two years under Kiffin, Corral was arguably the SEC's premier quarterback, accounting for 7,806 total yards and 64 total touchdowns.
Corral's story stopped being about untapped potential and became about work ethic. Thanks to the tutelage of Kiffin, offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby and receiver Elijah Moore, Corral became the Rebels' most respected leader and one of the locker room's hardest workers. He evolved from someone who admits he didn't watch film his first two years on campus to being a tireless presence and the Rebels' workhorse on and off the field.
The Corral who is competing for a starting job with the Carolina Panthers in 2022 can express regret about his teenage decisions because of the way he evolved at Ole Miss.
Maybe if Corral went to USC or Florida or another school that offered him like Georgia, Alabama, Michigan or UCLA, he would've matured the same way. Or maybe not. There's no way of knowing what would've happened.
But you don't have to be an expert logician to see the connection between Corral's time at Ole Miss and the player he's grown into. Thanks to the experiences he forged at Ole Miss, he has the hindsight to regret the way he made decisions as a youngster.
But those experiences informed that hindsight. The mature version of Corral exists because of the moments at Ole Miss that molded his character.
Seems Ole Miss might've been the right place for him after all.
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or email@example.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.