Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.
2009 final record (overall, conference): 9-4, 4-4
Bowl Game: Cotton Bowl (W 21-7 vs. Oklahoma State)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): 20, 21
Conference finish: 3rd SEC West
Offensive rank: 44
Defensive rank: 21
2009 Individual Statistical Leaders
Rushing: Dexter McCluster, 1,169 yards, 8 TD
Passing: Jevan Snead, 2,632 yards, 20 TD, 20 INT
Receiving: Shay Hodge, 1,135 yards, 8 TD
Tackles: Kendrick Lewis, 84 total tackles; Johnny Brown, 81 total tackles
Sacks: Emmanuel Stephens and Marcus Tillman, 5.5 sacks (5 solo, 1 assisted)
Interceptions: Patrick Trahan, Fon Ingram, Cassius Vaughn and Kendrick Lewis, 2 interceptions each (Fon, 1 touchdown)
2010 Season Outlook
The first five: The Rebels have a tough schedule once they reach October 16, but before that date, it's cake. Four of their first five are at home with the lone exception being a trip to take on Tulane. Jacksonville State, Vanderbilt, Fresno State and Kentucky are at home. I'll stop short of saying they have to start the season 5-0 to come up with a successful season, but it sure would help with a tumultuous road ahead.
October 23 @ Arkansas: The trip to Tuscaloosa the week before to take on the defending champs is likely going to be a loss for the Rebels, but the Rebels can win the road trip to Arkansas the week after. If they do, they'll set a good tone for the second half of the schedule and would do themselves a big favor towards reaching eight or nine wins.
November 27 vs. Mississippi State: This was an tough matchup last season that culminated in a 41-27 loss for the Rebels. Four turnovers, including three Jevan Snead interceptions, didn't help matters. The home team has won 10 of the last 11 Egg Bowl games, so the Rebels have that going for them, but they'll have to be on their toes to close out their season against the rivals Bulldogs coming off trips to Tennessee and LSU the previous weeks.
AP: Not Ranked
Coaches': Not Ranked
Jevan Snead, QB; Dexter McCluster, RB; Shay Hodge, WR; Patrick Patterson, WR; John Jerry, G; Daverin Geralds, C; Marcus Tillman, DE; Patrick Trahan, LB; Kendrick Lewis, S
Key Returning Players
Brandon Bolden, RB; Markeith Summers, WR; Jesse Grandy, WR; Bobby Massie, OT; Kentrell Lockett, DE; Jerrell Powe, DT; Jonathan Cornell, LB; Johnny Brown, S
Obviously, the big news around Ole Miss has been the addition of former Oregon Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who was dismissed from the team following a couple of legal problems in Eugene. Masoli has been the presumed starter at Ole Miss by many since rumors began surfacing that he would look to play for the Rebels, but a little over a week ago, following the team's first summer scrimmage, head coach Houston Nutt "said Stanley would still be his starter if the season opened today," according to the Clarion Ledger. This could be a two quarterback team with Masoli, a dual threat quarterback who many considered a preseason Heisman candidate before he was dismissed from the Ducks, and Stanley both seeing action. Whoever takes the field needs to protect the ball; the Rebels could do without another 20 picks from their starting quarterback…
There's plenty of talent at the skill positions despite the departure of running back Dexter McCluster and wide receiver Shay Hodge. There could be three running backs who see significant playing time this season with Brandon Bolden leading the way. Bolden managed 614 yards and four touchdowns behind McCluster last season and even added 20 receptions for 209 yards and a touchdown. Enrique Davis and Rodney Scott are solid backs as well, each of whom looked great in the offseason. If everybody's healthy and the running game can get a little help from the passing game, this could emerge as one of the SEC's better backfields.
With Hodge gone, Markeith Summers and Jesse Grandy take over as the top options. Summers is a tall, deep threat receiver, while Grandy, at 5'10 and 165 pounds, is a speedster who the Rebels are hoping to be a game breaker in his sophomore season, and one who could take snaps in the Wild Rebel formation. Senior Lionel Breaux and redshirt freshman Ja-Mes Logan could also factor into the passing game. The tight end will be Ferbia Allen, who is a good option in the passing game, but isn't much of a blocker. Patrick Patterson, who was expected to be a major part of the wide receivers corps if not one of the starters, was suspended early in the offseason and although many expected him back, he has been dismissed from the team.
The offensive line returns both tackles in Bobby Massie and Bradley Sowell, but questions on the interior need to be answered quickly if this team hopes to get their running game moving early. Squaring off against a hell of a defensive front every day will prove helpful in preparing for the season, but if this offensive line hopes to protect Masoli or Stanley and make way for their three-headed backfield, they'll have to find a way to make it work early.
The defensive front should be among the top in the SEC. The defensive line will be led by defensive end Kentrell Lockett and nose tackle Jerrell Powe, both of whom could churn out All-SEC performances and hear their name called next April. At the other end spot will be JUCO transfer Wayne Dorsey, who many expect to combine with Lockett to form a feared pass rush. Lawon Scott will join Powe on the interior, giving the Rebels two 300+ pounders on the inside.
The linebacker corps should be solid, even if they don't put anybody on the All-SEC team at the end of the year. Jonathan Cornell returns to the middle with Allen Walker at strongside and Joel Kight on the weakside. D.T. Shackelford was an All-SEC freshman last season and will again provide this unit with excellent depth as a run stopper.
Three starters are missing from the secondary, including both starting cornerbacks, but strong safety Johnny Brown returns after finishing second on the team with 81 tackles. He should again find himself among the team's top tacklers. Damien Jackson takes over at free safety for last year's leading tackler Kendrick Lewis. Jackson is a JUCO transfer who shouldn't take long to emerge as a major factor in the secondary. Senior Jeremy McGee takes over one of the corner spots with junior Marcus Temple expected to handle the other spot. Charles Sawyer will compete with Temple for a starting job, but either way should be a major contributor to the defense.
Special Teams Overview
Bryson Rose is expected to handle kicking duties this season taking over for four-year starter Joshua Shene, but could see a challenge mounted by David Hankins. Tyler Campbell averaged 44.0 yards per punt last season, ranking 12th in the entire nation. Jesse Grandy returned 29 kicks for 746 yards and two touchdowns a season ago (25.7 yard average) and will handle both kick returns and punt returns in 2010, giving the Rebels an explosive return man with game-changing ability.
Head Coach: Houston Nutt
Houston Nutt enters his third season as head coach at Ole Miss since taking over in 2008 following 10 seasons as the head coach at Arkansas. This will mark Nutt's 13th season as a head coach in the SEC West and while he's yet to win a conference championship, has enjoyed some success in arguably the nation's toughest conference. Nutt began his collegiate playing career as a quarterback at Arkansas before transferring to Oklahoma State to finish his career.
Nutt has coached in four Cotton Bowls (invited to a fifth in 2007 with Arkansas, but left for the Ole Miss job before the game was played) and since joining the SEC head coaching ranks, has taken his teams to 10 bowl games in 12 tries (again, invited to Cotton Bowl in 2007 season, but left before the game was played). In his two full seasons at Ole Miss, Nutt has brought in the 18th ranked recruiting class both years according to Rivals.com. He's built a good foundation from which to build (not that he took over a program whose cupboards were bare or anything) and takes Ole Miss into a rebuilding year with a very realistic chance at accumulating eight or so wins if the ball can bounce their way a few times throughout the season.
Top 2011 Draft Prospects
Markeith Summers, WR; Kentrell Lockett, DE; Jerrell Powe, DT; Ted Laurent, DT; Lawon Scott, DT; Jonathan Cornell, LB; Johnny Brown, S
5th SEC West
The SEC is a hard conference to call in general, mainly because even the teams who finish towards the bottom of the standings often have a good deal of talent. For the 2010 Ole Miss Rebels, the season will come down to winning the games they're supposed to and grabbing one or two of their more moderate matchups such as at Arkansas , vs. Auburn or at Tennessee. Going to Alabama and LSU will be tough, but if they can pull out a win, more power to them. The Rebels will have hopefully have qualified for a bowl game by the time the Egg Bowl rolls around, but with tough matchups in the second half of the season, adding that final win will go a long way in boosting the impression that the season will leave on the players and the program as a whole.
Check out these other stories.....