Masoli visited the Oxford, Miss., campus this weekend, and Rebels coach Houston Nutt offered Masoli a place on the team, which is down to two scholarship quarterbacks after backup Raymond Cotton decided earlier this month to transfer. Masoli, from Daly City, Calif., will be a walk-on because the Rebels already have reached the NCAA's 85-scholarship limit. He is eligible to play immediately because of an NCAA rule that allows players who have obtained bachelor's degrees to transfer to schools that offer graduate programs their current schools don't offer. Masoli graduated from Oregon this month with a degree in sociology. Pending approval of his transcript, Masoli will enroll in the Parks and Recreation master's program at Ole Miss, and he will compete with redshirt sophomore Nathan Stanley for the starting job when practice begins Aug. 8.
"I'm excited to get another chance," Masoli said on Sunday. "I'm so grateful and thankful."
Nutt said Sunday that Masoli initially made contact with Ole Miss when Cotton was still on the roster. With three scholarship quarterbacks in hand, Nutt told Masoli the Rebels didn't have room for another one. When Cotton left, Nutt reconsidered the possibility. Nutt spoke extensively with Masoli and his mother, but Nutt said he and Ole Miss administrators needed to meet Masoli in person before he could offer a place on the team. Nutt said Masoli fit in well with Rebels players and provided satisfactory answers to coaches and administrators. Nutt said Masoli also understands he can't make anymore mistakes off the field. "I felt like he needed us a whole lot more than we needed him," Nutt said. "He'll be under the highest of scrutiny."
In March, Oregon coach Chip Kelly suspended Masoli for the 2010 season after Masoli pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary in connection with a Jan. 24 robbery at a fraternity house on the Oregon campus. Masoli has since denied his involvement in the robbery, but he did admit to SI.com last week that he initially lied to police and to Kelly about being at the fraternity house. Kelly dismissed Masoli from the team June 9 after Masoli received a citation for marijuana possession after police found a small amount of the drug in the glove compartment of Masoli's car during a traffic stop June 7.
Masoli will report to Oxford on Friday. He said Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, West Virginia, Kansas State and UNLV also expressed interest, but he preferred Ole Miss, which has gone 9-4 and won the Cotton Bowl in each of the past two seasons. Masoli said he hopes the fact that he is coming as a walk-on will lessen some of the heat on Nutt and the school for offering a place to play.
"Either way, scholarship or not, they're going to get some criticism for taking me," Masoli said. "Without the scholarship, I think it deflects some of that criticism."
How Masoli fits into the Ole Miss offense is another question. Running Oregon's spread last season, he threw for 2,147 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 668 yards and 13 touchdowns. For the past two years, the Rebels relied on the strong right arm of drop-back passer Jevan Snead with occasional relief in the "Wild Rebel" formation from speedy back Dexter McCluster. Snead and McCluster have each moved on to the NFL. One possibility is that if Masoli wins the starting job, Ole Miss could run Wild Rebel plays without making a substitution. "The guy does have some experience," Nutt said. "He has been to the Rose Bowl. He has some equity."
He also has baggage. But Masoli insists he wants to make a new name for himself on the other side of the country.
"I can't wait to play some SEC ball, to be honest with you," Masoli said.