•  Register
22

2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #5 Ole Miss

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 22, 2016

#5 Ole Miss Rebels

2015 Recap:
Ole Miss was the hot team early in the year when they disposed of Alabama 43-37 and had the inside line to going to the SEC Championship Game. Losses to Florida and Arkansas in conference derailed those plans as well as an out of conference loss to Memphis. Ole Miss ended the season on a three game winning streak and looked sharp in thrashing Oklahoma State 48-20 in the Sugar Bowl.


Coaching:
Hugh Freeze has scored some huge victories and the program is recruiting as well as anyone within the SEC but they still seem to be their own worst enemy. Off-the-field issues and academic inproprieties are starting to slow the momentum being built by the football program. Freeze is wildly popular with the media and his players and the marriage between coach and University seems perfect at this time. But is it a little too good? Whispers about improprieties are growing louder and louder especially after the claims Laremy tunsil made at this past Draft.


Offense

Chad Kelly may have had the qiuetest 4,000 yard campaign of any signal caller a season ago after throwing for 4,042 yards and 31 touchdowns. many of the big targets like LaQuan Treadwell are gone but there is still a bevy of receivers to choose from who can move the chains. Quincy Adeboyejo had a 38-604-7 line at receiver and he returns for his senior season. Damarkus Lodge, Derrick Jones and Markell Pack will be the other receivers along with freshman Van Jefferson. As many targets as the rebels have at wide receiver the most reliable lines up at tight end in the form of Evan Engram. Engram is a bit undersized for a tradional tight end and will also line up in the backfield and play like an h-back but he can get open and he moves as well as any receiver in the open field. Chad Kelly added 500 yards on the ground with 10 rushing touchdowns and both are the top numbers for returning players. The starting running back position is up in the air but it looks like the bulk of the work will go to junior Jordan Wilkins but Akeem Judd is well-versed with this offense and can also serve as the starter. The line only returns two players and this will be the biggest mystery for the season on either side of the ball. How will the offensive line hold up?
 

Best Draft Prospects: Chad Kelly QB 3rd Round 2017.

                                       Evan Engram TE 2nd/3rd Round 2017.


Defense

Ole Miss will give you looks in the 4-3 and the 3-4 to go along with a rover and a five defensive back set with only a pair of linebackers. It will all start up front with the pressure generated by fellow defensive ends Marquis Haynes and Fadol Brown. Haynes had 10 sacks to pace Ole Miss with the departed first round pick Robert Nkemdiche. Isaac Gross will come back after injuries held him out for all of 2015 and his return should help ease the losses in the middle of the defense. DeMarquis Gates is a player to watch at linebacker and is the true bridge between the front line and an experienced secondary that underperformed a season ago. Tony Conner is a legitimate NFL prospect at safety though he will play more of a rover position, as he did last season, for Ole Miss. Conner will come up in the box and play the run but his three interceptions from last season demonstrate his versatility and how dropping into coverage is not an outlandish task. Tony Bridges and Kendarius Webster both return at the cornerback spots.

Best Draft Prospects: Marquis Haynes LB 2nd Round 2018.

                                      Tony Conner S 3rd Round 2017.


Special Teams:

Gary Wunderlich had a great year as a kicker and part-time punter as he scored more points than any other kicker in the conference. Overall Ole Miss has to improve their return game although the coverage units on kickoffs and punts when combined were #1 in the SEC.


Schedule:

A date with Florida State in the opening week will go a long way in setting the tone for the Rebels. The win against Alabama last season came in Tuscaloosa meaning Ole Miss gets them at home as they look for magic-in-a-bottle for a second consecutive season. Arkansas and LSU in the middle of the scheule are road games and these are both teams that the Rebels defeated last season but they had some difficulties.

Draft and Overall Outlook:

Gone are uber recruits like LaQuan Treadwell, Robert Nkimdiche and Laremy Tunsil as all left for the NFL and were first round selections. The recruiting is still solid but Ole Miss needs to keep winning in order to sustain the edge they have developed in certain sections of SEC country. The overall outlook remians good but the off-the-field distractions need to subside or Ole Miss could be stifled for a whole different reason.

DJ Boyer