Ole Miss has always been a pretty interesting school. It’s got one of the best tailgates in College Football (although opposing fans insist The Grove’s like a cocktail party you’re not invited to). It’s got ‘The Blind Side’. It’s got previous history we don’t want to go into. And right now, it’s got energy with head coach Hugh Freeze recruiting like a God. But don’t get us wrong – if Freeze loses two straight to Dan Mullen and Mississippi State, he won’t be popular in Oxford…

LAST SEASON

The end-of-season, 2-overtime loss to Mississippi State stands out as probably the worst loss of Ole Miss’ season, considering they stood out early on with a heart-attack victory at Vanderbilt, a stunning victory over Texas (in terms of its ease), before things came crashing down to earth with losses against Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M. They then rebounded with another great win, this time over LSU, before easing past Idaho, Arkansas and Troy. They then lost two straight against Missouri and hated rivals Mississippi Stat before rebounding to victory in the Music City Bowl against Georgia Tech.

THE OFF-SEASON

Who’s running discipline: Marshall Henderson CB Senquez Golson was arrested for failure to provide a name or ID to police, Denzel Nkemdiche (disturbing peace), Serderius Bryant (public drunkenness) and DE Channing Ward (DUI) were also arrested, and Freeze had to boot DB Bobby Hill after he was arrested for – gasp – sexual battery. We hope he ends up in jail if he’s found guilty.

RECRUITING

Stop if you’ve heard this before – Hugh Freeze is a damned good recruiter. After an electric 2013, he put together the country’s 15th-ranked recruiting class (8th in the SEC). It starred S CJ Hampton, LB Christian Russell, DE Marquis Haynes, OT Fahn Cooper, All-round offensive athlete Jeremy Liggins, QB Kendrick Doss, who all signed early. Top player in the State OG Rod Taylor, MS’ No.3 player WR Markell Pack and No.4 Breeland Speaks, who plays DT all came on board, as did DE Garrald McDowell. JUCO RB Akeem Judd was ranked the top JUCO RB in the class (don’t get that mixed up with ‘top RB in the class’, because Rebels fans might think they’d signed Leonard Fournette).

AND SO, THE 2014 SEASON FOR YOUR 2014 OLE MISS REBELS

QB: THE DOCTOR IS IN

The legend of “Doctor Bo” stems from this amusing account of two college football bloggers playing video games with each other and acting like children. It’s continued, and isn’t about to give up now. Anyway, he finished 2nd in the SEC in total passing yards (3,346), 3rd in yards per game (257.4), 7th in TDs, 5th in completion percentage (64.8%), and he’s going to be the top QB (stats-wise) returning in the SEC this year. We expect him to keep his job.

WR: TREADWELL TREADS ON YOU

Donte Moncrief may have left, but sophomore Laquon Treadwell is straight-up filthy. Expect him to be Wallace’s No.1 receiver. And if he gets the touches Moncrief had, then Ole Miss is going to be just fine. Cody Core, Quincy Adeboyejo, Josh Johnson and Collins Moore will provide ample depth, and as Hugh Freeze isn’t afraid to play freshmen, don’t be surprised if 4-star recruit Markell Pack plays, too.

RB: NO SCOTT, NO PROBLEM?

For a unit that was 7th in the SEC in total yards, there’s going to be a lot missing now Jeff Scott’s graduated. Some Ole Miss insiders are excited about  I’Tavius Mathers, because he’s elusive and quick. Jaylen Walton, Eugene Brazley, Jordan Wilkins, Mark Dodson and JUCO Akeem Judd will provide ‘Back-Up By Committee’. But I’m not that high on Ole Miss’ RBs this year. With the receiving corps pretty solid, Hugh Freeze may not need them!

OFFENSIVE LINE: THIN

OT Laremy Tunsil‘s going to lead the way in only his second year in Oxford. Other OT Austin Golson’s not – because he’s transferred to be ‘closer to his family’. LG Aaron Morris should be fine to start against Boise, and redshirt sophomore Robert Conyers can play anywhere. JUCO Fahn Cooper could well start, as could Justin Bell. We expect freshman Rod Taylor to immediately get work up front. Whatever ways, this line is really thin, which means that ‘Doctor Bo’ might need surgery come end-of-season!

DEFENSE: THE BIG-TIME BROTHERS

Before we start, Denzel and Robert Nkemdiche have have quite the off-season, haven’t they? Denzel got arrested, and both brothers have been sued for punching and kicking a guy. They have since counter-sued. Anyway, they are still going to be a force to be reckoned with on the field, for an Ole Miss defense that returns NINE starters. And while Texas A&M couldn’t stop the pass for crap, Ole Miss couldn’t stop the run. DE C.J. Johnson and transfer Fadol Brown will hope to solidify things, as will freshman DE Marquis Haynes. Robert Nkemdiche‘s a very good DT, but will he be double-teamed all season long? And at linebacker, Denzel Nkemdiche had a fantastic 2013, and could be a game-changer if he stays out of jail.

The secondary should be excellent, helped by fantastic, future-NFL and All-American S Cody Prewitt and Tony Connor. We’re pretty excited. Freshman S CJ Hampton‘s going to give Connor a run for his money, too. CB Senquez Golson should play for most of the season (though unlikely against Boise!), and Mike Hilton and Derrick Jones will provide ample depth. This unit could be really, really strong.

THE SCHEDULE:

Aug. 28 – vs Boise State (Atlanta)
Sept. 6 – at Vanderbilt
Sept. 13 – LOUISIANA
Sept. 27 – MEMPHIS
Oct. 4 – ALABAMA
Oct. 11 – at Texas A&M
Oct. 18 – TENNESSEE
Oct. 25 – at LSU
Nov. 1 – AUBURN
Nov. 8 – PRESBYTERIAN
Nov. 22 – at Arkansas
Nov. 29 – MISSISSIPPI STATE

Although a lot of this hinges on whether the O-Line can keep Wallace in one piece, Ole Miss is actually more saved by a pretty easy non-conference schedule, where they should reel off 4 wins with ease and at least guarantee some bowl money. SEC-wise, we figure they’ll  beat Vanderbilt on the road, Arkansas on the road, and Tennessee at home pretty easily. We figure they’ll lose to Alabama and at Texas A&M, LSU and Auburn, and win the home game against Mississippi State to get the Egg Bowl back. That’s an 8-4 year (4-4 SEC), without raising a lot of eyebrows. 

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