Spring Practice Wrap-up: Ole Miss Rebels
GatorTailgating.com's Ben Petitto will be doing a series covering each SEC Team's Spring practice. This is the fifth installment of the series on the Ole Miss Rebels.
The Ole Miss Rebels enjoyed immediate success in Houston Nutt’s first year as head coach. In 2007 they won three games and none in the SEC. Last season they won nine games and beat a Texas Tech team that was in contention for a national title most of the year. This was their first winning season and bowl game since Eli Manning was a senior. In the process, Jevan Snead became one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC and their defensive line was arguably the best in the nation.
On Offense: The talk on offense is all about QB Jevan Snead. He broke out last year with 2,762 yards and 26 touchdowns through the air. He also had a 145.5 passer efficiency rating, good for third in the SEC. Snead has had a great Spring as well tossing the ball for 254 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Spring game. His best weapon in the passing game will include senior Shay Hodge (WR) who had 725 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns. Other targets will include senior Dexter McCluster (RB/WR), junior Lionel Breaux (WR) and senior Gerald Harris (TE). Overlooked is the three headed backfield trio of McCluster (RB/WR), Cordera Eason (RB), and Brandon Bolden (RB). They each ran for over 550 yards last season and look for them effectively split carries again this year. Unfortunately, they won’t have first round NFL draft pick Michael Oher blocking for them, but the offensive line should still be passable. Center Daverin Geralds was named to the Rimington watch list (for the best center in the nation), while tackle John Jerry was named to the preseason all-SEC team. The other three spots are still yet to be determined; the contenders include experienced players and freshman alike.
On Defense: This defensive line only lost one starter (Peria Jerry) and should again be among the best in the nation. Senior Greg Hardy (DE) is a beast, he had 10 sacks in 2007 and 8.5 last year, despite playing in only 9 games and never being fully healthy at that (…ask the Gator offensive line about Mr. Hardy!) They also have Kentrell Lockett at the other end, who started all 13 games and had 11.5 tackles for loss. Senior Marcus Tillman (DE) has a ton of experience and will also see the field plenty this season. On the inside it will tough to replace Peria Jerry, but Jerrell Powe (DT) is stud and has the potential to be just as dominating. Junior Ted Laurent will be the other starter inside. He started seven games last year and was a part of the defense that ranked fourth in the nation in rush defense (85.5 yards per game). Junior Lawon Scott (DT) has had a huge spring and will push heavily for playing time in the middle. At linebacker, juniors Jonathan Cornell and Allen Walker both started last year. Seniors Patrick Trahan and Lamar Brumfield have also seen time in starting roles and will contribute to a deep and experienced group of linebackers.
The secondary on this team may not be as deep as the defensive line, but it is close to being as talented. Senior Marshay Green is a shutdown corner who was named defensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl after returning a pick 65 yards for a TD. Sophomore cornerback Marcus Temple and senior corner Cassius Vaughn, both of whom have been starters at some point, will both see time at the other corner spot. At safety, Jamaraca Sanford is gone to the NFL, but senior Kendrick Lewis is back at free safety. He led the team in tackles (85), interceptions (4), and pass break ups (6). Lewis will be dominant and the other safety will be junior Johnny Brown. This defense is easily one of the top ten in the nation and deserves to be mentioned with the great Florida and Alabama squads.
Spring Surprise: WR Jacarious Lucas. He had 4 grabs for 137 yards and two scores from Jevan Snead. It looked like Lucas became Snead’s go to guy on longer routes with Mike Wallace gone. If the relatively unknown Lucas can continue this type of play he could emerge as the number two wideout.
Lingering Question: I mean it is still Ole Miss, right? Are they for real? -Yes it is Ole Miss, and yes they are for real. They have a great QB, monster defensive line, speedy secondary, and multiple playmakers on offense. Houston Nutt turned things around in a hurry and this team looks to be competitive for awhile. These aren’t the Rebels we all know and used to love to see on the schedule. Just ask the Gators if these guys are for real.
What to expect in the Fall: Expect to see a balanced offense, with Snead at QB and three solid running backs. They will spread the ball around and run an effective and exciting offense. Look for more of Nutt’s “rebel-cat” offense (wildcat). Also expect to see this defense produce a ton of sacks, as they have one of the deepest defensive lines in the land. Also a solid linebacking crew plus a talented secondary spells a heck of a defense. These guys are a lot better than people realize, even after the trouncing of Texas Tech, and could compete for a national title.
Predictions: I honestly see the Rebels going 12-0 (8-0) and being in national title contention. (Yes I know it is Ole Miss) The only true tests on their schedule are Alabama and LSU, both of whom will have to travel to Oxford. They will lose to the Gators in the SEC championship and go to a BCS bowl.
Quotable: LB Patrick Trahan- “I’m just going to get back into the weight room and turn it on for the summer. I’m looking forward to the fall and I’m starting to count down the days.”
Aren’t we all Patrick, aren’t we all.
Ben Petitto is a columnist for GatorTailgating.com.