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Offseason Know the Foe: Ole Miss Rebels

One of the great things about SBNation is that it's a community of sports bloggers; and being a community we can easily contact bloggers from other teams. Which is exactly what the Ole Miss bloggers over at Red Cup Rebellion did. Last week they emailed me, and we exchanged a few questions. Because it's still the offseason these questions won't be too in depth. They'll be more spring ball, speculations stuff. You'll find the questions I answered here.

My questions after the jump.

Q. It's somewhat well known that Ole Miss is replacing their starting QB. How is the competition going? Is there a definitive front runner?

A. Randall Mackey, a Junior College transfer, appears to be the front runner at this point. He is a lot like Jeremiah Masoli in his build and playing style, but he doesn't have the experience or arm strength Masoli displayed last season. He is incredibly nimble though, leading many to believe that we should run a spread-option type of offense which utilizes a lot of shotgun formations this fall. Out of that formation, he should have the ability to extend plays and make a few things happen.

Q. With spring practices over what unit would you say performed the best? The worst?

A. So many potentially starting players missed our final spring practices with injuries that it is hard to accurately evaluate position groups. Randall Mackey and Barry Brunetti at quarterback both performed well, and Devin Thomas at halfback - currently something like third on the depth chart - turned a few heads. But I think that, if we're going to give any one unit praise over others I think it would have to be the offensive line. I think the line performed well in the running game, giving our halfbacks room to work with and providing enough of a push up front to dictate tempo, but that was against a defensive line missing half of its starters. They've got a lot of room to grow in pass protection, but the potential is there. The position group which, once again, will be the Rebels' weak link is the secondary. Our pass defense was the worst in the conference last season, and doesn't look to have improved very much over the past few months. There are a few new faces in the defensive backfield that look to fill in some holes in the depth chart, but I can't put too much faith in that unit just yet.

Q. Could you give us two players, one on offense and one on defense who may not start, but who you expect to could have an impact.

A. On offense, I think wideout Vincent Sanders is a guy to watch for. He's a redshirt freshman, and likely won't draw many starts, but he'll have plenty of opportunities to see the field this fall. He's got good hands and runs downfield very well.

On defense, sophomore defensive end Carlos Thompson has all of the tools to become a great SEC defender. He's tall and has a great frame. He moves laterally very well and did an excellent job of containing the quarterback during spring drills. He also uses his hands and feet very well. His only drawback as far as I can tell is that he is about 30 or 40 pounds shy of being a three-down type of defender, but I think he will shine in a situational role.

Q. Do you have any incoming freshmen who are expected to start/leave an impact?

A. The state of Mississippi had arguably the best group of high school senior wide receivers it has ever had this past year, and Ole Miss signed the three most highly rated - per the Scout and Rivals recruiting services - of that group. With the Rebels being awfully thin at receiver, one has to imagine that a couple of those guys are going to see some time on the field this season.

CJ Johnson is another player that is expected to make an impact right away. Johnson, rated as one of the top linebackers in the country by nearly every recruiting service, will need to add depth to a position group which suffered a major setback this spring with DT Shackelford - arguably the Rebels' best defender at his outside linebacker position - having torn an ACL.

Q. Looking through your schedule what do you think your final record will be? Explain your reasoning reasoning

A. Ole Miss' schedule is tougher this season than it was last season. Even with so many of our SEC opponents losing several significant contributors to the NFL Draft, we are going to have a hard time matching up with nearly everyone we play talent-wise. We travel to Fresno State and have your BYU cougars coming to Oxford this year, which is a much taller task than last season's hosting of Fresno State and visit to Tulane.

So while our offense should be as good if not better than last season (the Rebels return nine starters, including every starting offensive lineman and halfback, from the 3rd best rushing offense in the conference), and our defense can hardly get worse, the tougher schedule will mean that expecting an improvement on last season's 4-8 record could prove a bit ambitious.
I think our Rebs will be struggling to become bowl eligible, so anywhere from 4 to 7 wins should be expected.


A big thanks to Red Cup Rebellion for their questions and for answering ours.