Less risk, greater the reward
Ole Miss QB Wallace scaling back to stay healthy, productive
OXFORD, Miss. -- Bo Wallace's unpredictable, risk-taking style in the pocket made him one of the Southeastern Conference's most exciting players last season.
These days, the Mississippi quarterback is a little boring. That's by design.
A 6-foot-4, 204-pound junior, Wallace is coming back from offseason shoulder surgery in January and is now in the late stages of recovery. He was allowed to throw again in May and spends most of his workouts standing still while making 10-, 20- and 30-yard throws into a net to strengthen his arm.
It's repetitive. It's simple. But he hopes it will make him a better quarterback.
"The first couple months, you wonder if you'll ever be the same again," Wallace said. "When you can barely lift your arm, you can't help but worry. Then you see how it's getting better and the confidence returns. I can't wait to get back on the field."
Wallace played with pain for much of last season after injuring his shoulder against Tulane in September, but still completed nearly 64 percent of his passes for 2,994 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also rushed for 390 yards and eight touchdowns.
Ole Miss finished with a surprising successful 7-6 record, beating Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl in the program's first postseason trip since 2010.
Wallace was a big reason for success, adding a showman's touch that included spectacular completions and perilous runs through the teeth of SEC defenses. But with all that risk-taking came some failures. He had 17 interceptions, including several that left head coach Hugh Freeze slapping his forehead in frustration.
"He plays the game like he lives his life -- with a lot of passion," Freeze said. "Sometimes that leads to poor decisions. He'll be the first to tell you that."
Wallace said the shoulder injury is a sign that he needs to take a few less chances on the field. The recovery time was expected to be four to six months, though Wallace feels he's a little ahead of schedule.
"I'm going to play with the same instincts -- it's just picking my spots," Wallace said. "Instead of getting every last yard on a scramble, maybe I get out of bounds after five yards. Get on the turf and live another day."
Wallace said the recovery has allowed him to focus on his throwing mechanics. Wallace was fairly accurate with his passes last season, but had a long windup that sometimes caused problems when defenders crowded the pocket.
"My release is a lot quicker so I'm getting rid of the ball faster," Wallace said. "Obviously, it stinks that I didn't get to go through spring, but if everything comes back the way we think it will, this is going to be a good thing."
Freeze said Wallace's work on the field is only part of the path to improvement. Wallace certainly has the moxie and drive of a star quarterback, but Freeze said he can be "nonchalant" with his academic work and social life.
"He's got a great competitive spirit and people are attracted to that," Freeze said. "His teammates love to compete with him and that's important. But there are other parts of leadership. ... You're circle doesn't need to be huge. We encourage him to keep it simple."
Wallace certainly won't take the SEC by surprise like he did last season. The same goes for the Rebels.
Just two seasons after a disastrous 2-10 record, many expect Ole Miss to be much more competitive in the SEC's loaded Western Division, which includes heavyweights like Alabama, Arkansas and Texas A&M.
Wallace isn't necessarily shying away from the hype, but he's also not embracing it. He'll just continue to throw the ball into the net -- and then eventually to his receivers -- in an effort to become a quarterback.
Is that boring? Maybe. But Wallace is learning boring is sometimes better.
"Expectations are for the fans," Wallace said. "The way we look at it is we're going to control what we can in this building. We know we have talent and that we can make a name for ourselves in this league. But we have to handle our business, hit the weight room and get better every day."