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I Want Your SEC: The Most Cursory of Glances at Ole Miss

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Ole Miss Rebels are a mess that will be lucky to match their 4-8 record from a year ago. The offensive production was horrible, the defense was at or near the bottom of the conference in every category, and they were unable to finish close games all season. Things look to get worse this season as the schedule has them playing a depth challenging ten straight games, while Florida replaces Kentucky this year in the Eastern Division rotation and the Egg Bowl is in Starkville this year. There are a few bright spots of hope, though, with the recruiting prowess of the Orgeron continuing to raise the level of talent in Oxford and a bevy of talented freshmen that made a noticeable impact on the field last season returning as experienced veterans.

Offense

The Rebel offense last season was, how do I put this, terrible. The averaged 15.7 ppg, 261.4 total ypg and 136.1 passing ypg, all the worst numbers in the league. Former Tennessee QB turned highly touted JUCO recruit Brent Schaeffer was a large part of the problem as he completed 47.1 percent of his pass with 9 TDs and 10 picks after being handed the starting job before he ever set foot on campus. To that end, head coach Ed Orgeron has said former walk-on Seth Adams has a leg up on the starting job coming out of spring.

QB Brent Schaeffer
Many have noted that Schaeffer's problems were due in no small part to his inability to grasp the Rebel playbook, a problem compounded by the fact he arrived in Oxford a day before the start of fall practice. Word is, though, that after an entire season and spring practice he is still having trouble understanding the pro-style offense of OC Dan Werner and hasn't shown the consistency necessary to lock down the starting position. Whoever gets the nod under center, though, does have weapons around him in the backfield and in the receiving corp.
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Att Net TD Avg
234 1000 7 4.3
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the former Hoosier transfer, returns after his 234 carries (for an even 1000 yards) last season set a school record for most carries in a single season, and four members of a talented O-Line return to open holes for the workhorse of the Rebel offense. LG Andrew Wicker departs, but sophomore Redi Neely impressed during the spring and should be able to step in with no drop off at that position. Returning starters include second team All-SEC LT Michael Oher, Corey Actis at C where he started all 12 games last year after being named a JUCO All-American the year before, RG John Jerry, a Freshman All-SEC pick, and Maurice Miller at RT, where he started the final seven games of last season. Besides Green-Ellis, the Rebels have good depth in the backfield with Bruce Hall and Cordera Eason both returning. Starting FB Jason Cook, a key blocker in the ground game, also returns.

As for the passing game, the top ten receivers from last year all return, including wideouts Mike Wallace, Marshay Green, Shay Hodge, and big play threat Dexter McCluster all return. McCluster was an all purpose threat early on, but was injured in the opening kickoff against Vandy and never returned. Despite missing half the season, he still finished second in receiving yards (232 yds) behind Mike Wallace (410 yds) and fourth in receptions (15) behind Wallace (24), Hodge (16) and Green (19). The offense was plagued by dropped passes last year, but with better production from the QB (whomever that might be), they can only hope to get better.

Defense

This is the first season under the Orgeron's reign that he won't be his own DC. Long time co-ordinator (and Orgeron's coach at Northwestern State) John "You Bama Fans Might Remember Me From Crimson Tide Staffs Like Bill Curry's!" Thompson was brought in to alleviate some of the responsibilities on the Orgeron and to add new wrinkles to the existing D. He has his work cut out for him as the defense looks to replace five starters in the back seven and all-everything linebacker Patrick Willis.

He might be gone, but that's no reason not to post Willis putting on a tackling clinic against LSU.
While Willis is the biggest name to depart, LB Rory Johnson, S Charles Clark and CB Trumaine McBride all left gaping holes in the Rebel defense as only three starters return on a defense that finished in the bottom half of the conference last season. The D-line was too young and too small last season, but should have a better year with the return of ends Greg Hardy and Marcus Tillman, both of whom were pressed into service last season as true freshmen. Hardy had 3 sacks and 2 TFL last season and is the second leading tackler to return with 49. Tillman spent most of last season at DT, but should be more effective at his natural position on the end. In the middle is Peria Jerry and Jeremy Garrett, who were both bothered by injuries last season and need to remain healthy to give the Rebel D a solid line.

Behind them Jonathan Cornell, Tony Fein, Ashlee Palmer and Jamie Phillips are all in the mix at LB. Cornell held down the middle during spring, but will likely slide outside when Fein arrives in the fall. Fein, the #28 JUCO player in the country according to Rivals, is expected to start at MLB, while the strong- and weakside spots are up in the air.

Jamarca Sanford is the anchor of the secondary at SS after a stint at SLB during the second half of last season. Returning starter Nate Banks will battle with Terrell Jackson, Cassius Vaughn, and Dustin Mouzon for the starting job at CB, an inexperienced group that could be in a lot of trouble with a learning front seven in front of them.

Date Opponent
09/01 at
09/08 vs
09/15 at
09/22 vs
09/29 at
10/06 vs
10/13 vs
10/20 vs
10/27 at
11/03 vs
11/17 vs
10/24 at
The Schedule

The Rebels came close to upsetting our own beloved Tide last year, taking us to OT in Tuscaloosa thanks to a fake punt and some busted coverage, and also put quite a scare into Georgia and LSU. The LSU loss must have been especially painful for the Rebels after they dominated a far more talented team for 3 1/2 quarters and still managed to force OT on a blocked PAT, but fumbled the game away in overtime. Missed opportunities like that plagued Ole Miss all season long, and there's a good chance that this season will be more of the same. I'm hesitant to make specific predictions for the Rebs this year, since they seem like the kind of team that could bungle their way into a few wins that they shouldn't, but I think they'll be lucky to match their four win total last season, and really only see two hands down wins on the Rebel schedule.

An improved passing game and even a semblance of a functioning offense should help the Rebels stay in games all season long, but a questionable defense will likely cause Ole Miss to continue to fall short in the close games. Though they are lucky enough to get the five SEC powerhouses on the schedule at home this year, it probably won't do them much good. The Rebels open at a much improved Memphis before welcoming a Mizzou team that dominated them in Missouri last season in week two. Trips to Vanderbilt and Georgia in weeks three and five and a visit from Florida in week four could easily find the Rebels with an 0-6 start before Louisiana Tech, one of only two imminently winnable teams on the schedule, comes to Oxford on October 6th. Alabama and Arkansas come calling next, and even though I'm expecting a meltdown from the Hawgs, Humanity Advanced should win this one single handed. A trip to Auburn will likely put the Rebels at 1-9 before they come home to play the only other team that shouldn't have a prayer against the Rebels, 1-AA Northwestern State. Even though they pushed LSU to the limit last season, unless Les Miles manages to choke this one away there should be no trouble for the Tigers in Oxford. Finally, the Egg Bowl is in Starkville this year, and I expect State to be much improved over last year's team (to the amusement of many).

This season could get real ugly, real quick for Ole Miss, but hey, at least they never lose a party. Monday we'll tackle LSU, and break down why the only thing stopping the Tigers from an undefeated season is the guy wearing a goobery hat on the sidelines.