Monday, August 6, 2012

SEC West Preview: Ole Miss

The Ole Miss Rebels suffered a very rough season in 2011 and went 2-10. Houston Nutt was fired and Hugh Freeze was brought in from Arkansas State to try and turn around the program. Ole Miss had been to back-to-back Cotton Bowls in 2008 and 2009 before suffering consecutive losing seasons. Hugh Freeze brings in a new energy to the program that has the Rebels and their fans excited for the new season. While the Rebels may still have a losing record, they look to be more competitive in 2012.

Ole Miss returns 8 starters on an offense that ranked 114th in total offense, 83rd in rushing offense, and 107th in passing offense. The Rebels used 3 quarterbacks last year but the starter this year should be either Barry Brunetti or Bo Wallace. Wallace is a junior college transfer and Brunetti played in 5 games last year passing for 19 of 35 for 144 yards. Brunetti also ran for 110 yards. The Rebels have moved last year's starting quarterback Randall Mackey to running back this year where he will join Jeff Scott for playing time. Mackey ran for 180 yards last year and 1 touchdown while Scott ran for 529 yards on 116 carries for an average of 4.6 yards a carry and 6 touchdowns. The wide receiving corps for the Rebels will feature plenty of experience. All three projected starters had some starting experience from last year. The biggest blow for Ole Miss though is the most experienced wide receiver Collins Moore has a torn labrum that is going to keep him out an undisclosed period of time. So right now the starting wide receivers look to be Philander Moore, Ja-Mes Logan, and Donte Moncrief. Philander Moore had 5 receptions for 14 yards last with no touchdowns. Moncrief was the leading receiver with 31 receptions for 454 yards and 4 touchdowns while Logan 20 receptions for 274 yards. The tight end battle will see Ferbia Allen and Jamal Mosley split time. Allen had 6 receptions for 69 yards and Mosley had 12 receptions for 166 yards and 1 touchdown. The offensive line returns two starters in center Evan Swindall and left guard Aaron Morris. The right tackle position is up for grabs in a battle between Patrick Junen and Pierce Burton.  The left tackle position looks to be Emmanuel McCray's to lose and the right guard position looks to have A.J. Hawkins as the starter. The Ole Miss offense should improve under Hugh Freeze dramatically. Freeze had Arkansas State in the top 25 in total offense and passing offense so look for the Rebels to throw the ball way more than they did last year. The Rebels should be improved on offense this year though Freeze's system will be tested by some of the best defenses in the nation.

The Ole Miss defense will return 8 starters on a unit that ranked 90th in total defense, 112th in rushing defense, and 22nd in passing defense. The defensive line returns two starters in defensive end C.J. Johnson and nose tackle Uriah Grant. Johnson had 32 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and 1 sack while Grant had 22 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack. Bryon Bennete looks to start at the defensive tackle position and Gerald Rivers looks to be the other defensive end. Bennett had 15 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss while Rivers had 13 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. The linebacking corps returns  2 starters with Serderius Bryant at the stinger position and Mike Marry at the Mike position. Bryant had 61 tackles and 2 tackles for loss while Marry was the leading tackler with 81 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. The secondary returns 4 starters with Aaron Garbutt at the husky position, Wesley Pendleton at one corner back, Cody Prewitt at strong safety, and Charles Sawyer at rover. Sawyer was recently injured though with a torn quad that will keep him out four to six weeks. Sawyer's replacement should be either Trae Elston or Quintavius Burdette. Garbutt had 51 tackles and 3 tackles for loss while Pendleton had 19 tackles. Prewitt did not register any tackles last year but did have 1 interception. Senquez Golson looks to be at the other corner position. Golson had 16 tackles and 1 interception last year. The Ole Miss defense will need to improve greatly against the run if they are going to be better this year. They have the tools to do so but they are going to suffer from growing pains.

Ole Miss' schedule this year is very difficult. They start off the year with FCS school Central Arkansas at home before taking on UTEP and Texas at home. After a trip to Tulane, the Rebels go to Alabama. After the Alabama game, the Rebels are home for back to back home games against Texas A&M and Auburn. The Rebels then go to Arkansas and Georgia before coming home for Vanderbilt. The final two games of the year have Ole Miss at LSU and home for the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State. I think Ole Miss is going to have a rough year record wise but they should be an improved team. I see the Rebels winning against Central Arkansas, UTEP, and Tulane but other than that I don't see any wins on the schedule for the Rebels. It will be another rough years for the Rebels but look for Hugh Freeze to get the Rebels back on the right path. 

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