Alford started five games at USM as a true freshman. (US Presswire)
Anthony Alford's first year on campus didn't work out as planned, but he didn't have to go very far for a second chance: As expected, Ole Miss confirmed Alford's enrollment on Tuesday, a little more than a month after the former blue chip's departure from an in-state neighbor, Southern Miss. He's one of eight new enrollees in Oxford for the spring semester, all of whom are expected to compete in spring practice.
Alford, a two-sport star at nearby Petal High, arrived at Southern Miss last August as one of the most-touted recruits in school history, having been selected as an Army All-American in football and a third-round draft pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in the MLB Draft. He signed a contract with the Blue Jays in June, played in five games with a minor-league affiliate prior to football season and remains a member of the organization.
As a true freshman, Alford was the closest USM came to a regular starter in 2012, starting five games and appearing in four more with two touchdown passes, four interceptions and a team-high 993 yards of total offense. He also suffered through multiple knee and ankle injuries that kept him out of three games and limited him in several others. A rash of injuries at the position eventually forced Southern Miss to field four different starting quarterbacks over the course of the season, with predictable results: The offense ranked dead last in Conference USA and among the worst in the nation in scoring, passing efficiency and turnover margin en route to an 0-12 finish, the worst in school history. Head coach Ellis Johnson was fired after just one year on the job, along with his staff, which included Alford's high school coach at Petal, Steve Buckley.
According to Hattiesburg police, Alford was one of at least four people involved in an altercation on the Southern Miss campus on Nov. 28, one of whom (a fellow student) reportedly brandished a gun. Though he was not accused of possessing a weapon, Alford was initially charged with aggravated assault, a felony, before charges were reduced to conspiracy to possess a weapon on school property and hindering prosecution.
Following the arrest, Alford and another student were suspended by the university and barred from campus. A few weeks later, Alford was released from his scholarship by new head coach Todd Monken.
At Ole Miss, Alford will have to sit out the 2013 season under standard NCAA transfer rules, but will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2014. The Rebels appear to be set at quarterback for the next two years, at least, with Bo Wallace, a former junior college transfer who beat out incumbents Randall Mackey and Barry Brunetti for the starting job last spring and went on to win the Conerly Trophy as the best college player in the state of Mississippi. Wallace finished with 22 touchdown passes, eight of them coming in season-ending wins over Mississippi State and Pittsburgh, but also threw an SEC-worst 17 interceptions and is scheduled for offseason shoulder surgery that will keep him out of spring drills.
Among Alford's fellow enrollees in Oxford is a former Rebel, Nick Brassell, who is returning to Ole Miss after a season in junior college to get his academics in order. As a true freshman in 2011, Brassell started six games at wide receiver, another at cornerback and finished second on the team in all-purpose yards.