July 3, 2013 4:48:58 PM
OXFORD -- 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 University of Mississippi quarterback is a little boring. That's by design.
The 6-foot-4, 204-pound junior is in the late stages of recovery from offseason shoulder surgery in January. 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 in September in a game against Tulane University, but he still completed nearly 64 percent of his passes for 2,994 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also rushed for 390 yards and eight touchdowns.
Wallace's performance helped Ole Miss finish 7-6 thanks to a victory against the University of Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl. It was Ole Miss' 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 defenses. But with all that risk-taking came some failures. He had 17 interceptions, including several that left 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 he needs to take fewer 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 5 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 he 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. "It stinks 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 has the moxie and drive of an elite 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 won't take the SEC by surprise this season. The same goes for the Rebels. Just two seasons after a 2-10 record, many expect Ole Miss to be much more competitive in the SEC's Western Division, which includes heavyweights like defending national champion University of Alabama, University of Arkansas, and Texas A&M University.
Wallace isn't shying away from the hype, but he also isn't 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."