SEC Presason preview: Can Hugh Freeze turn around Ole Miss?

In the days of Eli Manning it might have been a truism to talk about the Rebels and say: “Ole Miss by damn!”, but last season, there was only one ‘damn’ to describe this team: Damn awful.

But can they improve and at least break their SEC losing streak – and give hope to Rebels fans who haven’t had a decent team since 2009?


Ole Miss went 2-10 last year under Houston Nutt, who was summarily given his marching orders a month before the season ended – a move that sparked some outrage. And it was no bad thing. The Rebels didn’t lose many close heartbreakers – they were generally laughers (bar BYU (loss by 1) and Arkansas, by five). In fact, the biggest highlight of Ole Miss’ season was being part of an opposition running back’s Heisman reel (Trent Richardson). That, and losing by 20 to Louisiana Tech.

And in the losing streak, they took their losing streak in the SEC to 15. But they can still throw a party, as friends of this blog who hit up the Georgia game happily maintain.

NFL-wise, offensive lineman Bobby Massie was drafted.

So who’s going to be the new quarterback?

As fans of the University of Texas will tell you, quarterbacks sharing position doesn’t really work, but Coach Freeze seriously wants to give playing time to both his QBs – Barry Brunnetti (who went 19-35 for 144 yards last season) or Bo Wallace, who played for Freeze at Arkansas State, where St Hugh ruled the roost before he was asked to coach in Oxford, where had success as a high school coach.

Coach Freeze better start choosing quickly, or it’ll be a long hard season.

And what weapons will the new QB have to rely on?

Now that four starters have left, Wallace/Brunnetti is not going to get a whole of lot of support at offensive line, so he’d better be quick on his heels. Brunnetti ran for 100 yards last year, which was quite tidy for a QB.

Anyway, running backs Jeff Scott, Nicholas Parker, and Devin Thomas are going to provide some threat from the backfield, while the Rebs are really deep at wide receiver/tight end, bringing back almost anyone who had a receiving yard last year – including Donte Moncrief (454 yds),and Ja-Mes Logan (274). Randall Mackey also comes over from QB to play RB AND WR (so he’ll be busy then!!) which should be more fun. But the loss of  Nickolas Brassell (336) to academic ineligibility is going to be a huge loss to Freeze’s men. Brassell will transfer.

Whoever is at quarterback, there’s a big question: Can the offensive line deal with the speed of their SEC counterparts? Sadly, we think not.

And on the other side of the ball?

Defensively, linebacker Mike Marry and free safety Charles Sawyer return, which is good bearing in mind they had over 150 tackles between them. Cornerback Wesley Pendleton has been getting some rave reviews this Spring, too.

But they’ll need to be helped by Des Channing Ward and C.J. Johnson, who –as remarked by Lindy’s – should benefit from the new blitz-happy schemes of new co-defensive co-ordinator Dave Wommack.

But this was a defense that gave up nearly 420 yards per game this year. Will it be able to improve so much that Ole Miss can actually win a SEC game?

The 2012 schedule


September 8 UTEP

September 15 TEXAS

September 22 at Tulane

September 29 at Alabama

October 6 TEXAS A&M

October 13 AUBURN

October 27 at Arkansas

November 3 at Georgia

November 10 VANDERBILT

November 17 at LSU


THE BOTTOM LINE: There is no getting past the fact that the Rebels have one of the toughest schedules in the land. They play Texas, Texas A&M, Auburn, Vandy and Mississippi State at home, but by gosh their away schedule is difficult. Anyone else want to go on the road to Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and LSU? The only saving grace of Freeze’s first season in charge in Oxford is that the team should start the season well and be 3-1 before they play Alabama. Thereafter, it’s hard to see where a win’s going to come from. Sorry, Hugh. We predict a 3-9 season….and still no SEC victory.

After dismissing Isaiah Crowell on Saturday after their troubled star’s arrest on gun charges, Georgia will be needing another running back to frighten the life out of SEC East defenses in the fall.

The job up for grabs will come between sophomore Ken Malcolme, highly-touted Keith Marshall, and freshman Todd Gurley, ESPN says.

And as for Crowell, here are some schools where we think Crowell might end up:

1) Auburn – Remember what happened when Florida dismissed Cam Newton? We can bet that some parts of The Swamp were thinking: “Why was Urban Meyer so draconian?” Stealing computers will do that to do. Tigers fans? They’re pretty happy with the National Title. Plus, with Michael Dyer leaving, Auburn suddenly needs a jacked-up running game, and Crowell will provide this. The only downside? Auburn recently made the news for shootings. Would Tigers fans – or the press – be keen to see a guy come onto the team who’s had issues in the department?

2) Arkansas State – Would shine in a Gus Malzahn-led offense, and it would be great to see Crowell playing football, but not at FBS level. Also, Arkansas State doesn’t have a problem bringing in guys with troubled pasts, and he could do the job.

3) North Alabama – Janoris Jenkins transferred from Florida after a number of problems, and it wouldn’t surprise us to see Crowell down there.

4) Ole Miss – Hugh Freeze believes in forgiveness and saving souls. What could be better if this soul is Crowell, who can also help the Rebels offense to 3,000 yards and automatically make them better?

5) LSU – After bringing in former UGA QB Zach Mettenberger after he was dismissed from Athens, it’s not like Les Miles isn’t the forgiving type. And he’s pretty forgiving to good players – see Tyrann Mathieu for details last year. So why not Crowell? Plus, he’d be a fantastic addition to Death Valley in the galactic SEC West arms race.

6) Clemson- Great SEC back who would shine at ACC level. With the bad choices that Crowell’s been making, maybe him and Sammy Watkins can grow up a bit together while they think about their own stupidity.