Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ole Miss Preview


Ole Miss enters the 2009 season with a very unfamiliar target on their back. Benefiting from the previous coaching staff's recruiting efforts, especially along the lines, the Rebels surprised a lot of people in 2008 en route to a nice 9-4 season and Cotton Bowl victory. But their success last year wasn't only due to being underestimated by their opponents. They were a very good football team. Now in 2009, they have to replace their best lineman on each side of the ball. Left tackle Michael Oher and defensive tackle Peria Jerry were both first-team All Americans in 2008, and they're both gone. But one of the nation's top quarterbacks and some quality skill players makes Ole Miss very competitive in the SEC West. A very favorable schedule helps even more. If they don't win the division this year, I'm not sure they ever will. Houston Nutt is known for getting the most out of his talent, but he hasn't turned in good coaching performances when people expected his teams to succeed. It will be very interesting to see how this team responds to all the attention they're getting.


The star on offense is junior quarterback Jevan Snead and rightfully so. Snead had an outstanding sophomore season, his first as a starter. He completed 56% of his passes for 2,762 yards with 26 TDs and 13 INTs. I only expect those numbers to improve. Snead is also mobile enough to make a few plays with his feet and to be very effective on roll outs. Ole Miss does lack depth however. If something were to happen to Snead, their season would turn south in a hurry.

The Rebels have a number of running backs, none of which truly stand out but all of which are effective. Cordera Eason and Scotlandville's Brandon Bolden will again split the load. Eason ran for 647 yards last year while Bolden had 542 in his freshman campaign. Former 5-star recruit Enrique Davis is also in the mix though he disappointed as a freshman in 2008. You'll also see Dexter McCluster carry the ball quite a bit, many times out of the "Wild Rebel" formation where he takes a direct snap and he'll also run sweeps, pitches, and reverses. With the departure of Percy Harvin, McCluster becomes the SEC's top multi-purpose threat. He had over 600 yards rushing and receiving in 2008. If the offensive line can duplicate last year's success, then the running backs should put up similar numbers.

At receiver, Ole Miss lost their top deep threat from last year in Mike Wallace, who really opened things up down the field for them. He averaged a ridiculous 20 yards per reception and scored seven touchdowns. They return Shay Hodge as their only established true wide receiver, and Hodge is awfully good. He racked up 725 receiving yards last year and eight touchdowns. McCluster is also a factor in the passing game, working mostly from the slot where he caught 44 passes last year. Simply put, defenses have to account for McCluster on every single play. After those two, Ole Miss doesn't have a lot of experience. Enter true freshman Pat Patterson. He presents a big target at 6'3" 215 pounds and by the time Ole Miss plays LSU in November, I expect Patterson will be well established. Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux will see the field as well.

Ole Miss was dominant on the offensive line last year, which set the tone for the entire offense. They must replace two starters from that unit, including All-American Michael Oher. True freshman Bobby Massie may compete for the vacant left tackle position. Bradley Sowell will also be in the mix. Right tackle John Jerry will likely remain on the right side. He is enormous at 350 pounds and is not well suited to protect the quarterback's blind side. Center Daverin Geralds and guard Reid Neely are solid and Rishaw Johnson is a new starter at right guard.


While Ole Miss lost defensive tackle Peria Jerry, their defensive line will still be awfully good. The Rebels have Jerrel Powe, who is finally in football shape after spending last year getting accustomed to the college game. He'll be solid, if not very good. They also have Ted Laurent who notched seven tackles for loss last year. At defensive end, Ole Miss has three guys who will play a lot. First is future first rounder Greg Hardy (pictured) who had 8.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss in limited time last year. They also have Marcus Tillman who is a multi-year starter and very solid. Kentrell Lockett will see more time this season as well. In a reserve role last year, Lockett managed 11.5 tackles for loss. Ole Miss will be tough against the run and they'll be able to rush the passer often and effectively.

At linebacker, Ole Miss is solid but doesn't have any real stars. Allen Walker, Patrick Trahan, and Jonathan Cornell all have starting experience and none are really considered weaknesses. Walker is probably the best of the group, and he could really come into his own this year...his junior season.

If Ole Miss has a weakness on defense, it's the secondary. Starting cornerbacks Marshay Green and Cassius Vaughn are solid but both are under 5'10" which presents some match up problems for them. Kenderick Lewis is a returning starter at safety, and he is a good player. He led Ole Miss in tackles last year and intercepted four passes.

All in all, Ole Miss will suffer from losing their All-American linemen but they'll benefit from the improvement that Jevan Snead will make. Their schedule is as easy as you'll find in the SEC, and this season is tailor made for the Rebels to make a run at the SEC Championship.

All SEC Candidates:
QB Jevan Snead
WR Shay Hodge
WR Dexter McCluster
OL John Jerry
DL Greg Hardy

@ Memphis (W)
vs. Southeastern LA (W)
@ South Carolina (Thursday) (W)
@ Vanderbilt (W)
vs. Alabama (W)
vs. UAB (W)
vs. Arkansas (W)
@ Auburn (L)
vs. Northern Arizona (W)
vs. Tennessee (W)
vs. LSU (L)
@ Mississippi State (W)


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