It's football time once again.
As BleacherReport.com's community leader for Ole Miss sports, we will get some in-depth looks at a potential top 10 preseason team in Ole Miss. After dismantling Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl 47-34, expectations are high in Oxford.
Can Jevan Snead lead Ole Miss to an SEC title and possibly a national title contender? How will Ole Miss hold up with the losses of Michael Oher and Peria Jerry? Can Ole Miss surge through the first of their schedule, a part that haunted the Rebels in 2008, and continue their run that they ended the season with?
We will answer all those questions this year, but today here's a spring practice report.
Jevan Snead has continued where he left off after the Cotton Bowl, but some has criticized that he is struggling a bit. Of course he has struggled, Ole Miss has one of the best returning defenses in the country.
Is everyone forgetting the Cotton Bowl? After spotting Texas Tech 14 points, we went on to dominate their ‘unstoppable spread offense’ the whole game. Jevan will be fine.
Nathan Stanley has impressed, but will it be enough to overtake senior Billy Tapp’s position? Experience or future? I think Stanley eventually takes Tapp’s position as the backup, but I think Tapp gets a chance to start on Saturday. Tapp has plenty of experience, but for obvious reasons, Nathan Stanley is the future of the program it looks like.
Cordera Eason and Brandon Bolden seem to be the favorites here for the starting position. Bolden showed out in the Cotton Bowl vs. Texas Tech, rushing for 101 yards on 11 carries and 1 TD. Eason will be the senior, but it is believed that Bolden could wrap up the starting spot.
After Eason and Bolden, there might be a surprise brewing. Devin Thomas, a former Army All-American, looks to grab the #3 RB spot after being left out of the loop last season. It could be all speculation at this point, but sources say that Thomas has really turned some heads during the spring and have caused coaches to reorder the depth chart.
After that, Enrique Davis and Andre Sterling seem to be battling for #4 and #5. It's a bid surprising that the former five star recruit Davis could fall so low on the depth chart, but he has to show that he can compete in the SEC game in and game out. Consistency is the key, and Davis could show something in the spring game to skyrocket the depth chart.
Dexter McCluster will be a key as a rusher, but a majority of the time, not out of the backfield. One of Ole Miss's main components, the 'Wild Rebel', will make it's return with McCluster returning for the 'QB' position, so to say. Last season, McCluster racked up 655 yards and 6 TDs, keeping opponent's defenses at bay.
Wide receivers seem to be a definite strength coming into the spring. Dexter McCluster and Shay Hodge obviously lead the way, but players such as Lionel Breaux, Markeith Summers, and Andrew Harris have really turned the corner in their development and look to be prominent players next fall.
Everyone that is an Ole Miss fan has probably heard of Melvin Harris, a 6'7 220lb. receiver who redshirted last fall. The red zone threat is sidelined for the spring with a foot injury but looks to get some quality minutes in the fall.
Incoming freshman Terrell Grant, Ja-mes Logan, and Montez Phillips may not be on campus yet, but if all qualify, they will definitely be the future of the program in the receiver department.
The coaching staff has also explained that incoming freshman Pat Patterson will be thrown into the rotation immediately and should receive plenty of playing time this fall.
Pat Patterson could ultimately be a factor in the SEC, such as Juilio Jones was for Alabama as a freshman wide receiver.
After losing possibly the best offensive tackle in college football in Michael Oher, the offensive line is showing a bit of concern during the spring. Rishaw Johnson should get some strong looks at guard, considering his size, potential, and abilities.
As the spring rolls on, many Ole Miss fans linger to see the day Bobbie Massie makes it to the Ole Miss campus. The mammoth 6'8 335lb. prep school offensive lineman chose Ole Miss over Alabama on signing day, and should be a force at offensive tackle from day one. Can he start from day one?
It probably depends on the development of Bradley Sowell. At times, sources say Sowell can make strides, but he definitely shows some inconsistency that should not happen. Either way, Massie needs to get to Oxford quick in the summer and compete right away.
At least Ole Miss gets one Jerry back. John Jerry, the brother of departing Peria, returns to the offensive line as, more than likely, a first-team All-SEC pick and a possible All-American. Jerry really needs to anchor the offensive line and show some leadership, as staff has commented he has done throughout the spring.
The defensive line comes in as a definite strength. Losing Peria Jerry hurt, hurt a lot, but there is so much depth here. Kentrell Lockett, Greg Hardy, Ted Laurent, Jerrell Powe, Marcus Tillman, Lawon Scott, Emmanuel Stephens, Craig Drummond, the list goes on and on. Greg Hardy has missed spring practice, but trainers say he should be 100 percent by fall practice.
Incoming freshman Craig Drummond, an Army All-American, is enrolled on campus and participating in spring drills. The possibility of quality playing time as a freshman is slim, but Drummond can add some depth to quite possibly one of the best defensive lines in the NCAA.
As for their performance this spring, the 'Landsharks' have put continuous pressure on Snead, Stanley, and Tapp. For Ole Miss to make a run in 2009, the defensive line has to be dominant.
The linebackers, from the coaching staff’s eyes, may have improved from last season, even though losing future pros Ashlee Palmer and Tony Fein. Patrick Trahan has evolved into the clear best LB of the group.
Add in Allen Walker and Jonathan Cornell and this group seems to have it’s clear favorite of starters. Can Patrick Trahan be half as good as another former Reb named Patrick who played LB? Reb fans can only hope.
After redshirting his freshman season, Jason Jones has gotten rave reviews from his coaching staff and his peers and looks to be the quality backup man aside Lamar Brumfield for the linebacker corps.
At the secondary, Ole Miss looks to be improved but not out of the water yet. Losing James Scott to dismissal really took the secondary back, but they do have good experience and did improve over the course of the season last year.
The staff is hoping to see Marshay Green work hard on covering fade routes, as during some parts of the ‘08 season it became evident of the team’s picking on his size. Jeremy McGee looks to have improved a bundle.
It’s imperative for Ole Miss to get either Jamar Hornsby or Darius Barksdale in from the ‘09 class for immediate help. Johnny Brown will be okay, but there needs to be some depth there in case he goes down. Kendrick Lewis, from spring practice reports, seems to be keeping up where he left off from 2008.
Cassius Vaughn, after a terrific performance in the Cotton Bowl, looks to have locked up a starting position at corner. The 5'10 185lb. senior had an interception in the postseason bowl game to go along with 2 others and has the size to lock down receivers for the Rebs next fall.
As most have seen or heard, the 2009 Ole Miss Rebels football team has some definite hype and expectations. For the spring, the Rebels clearly have the look of a top 10 team. Solid athletes across the board, 17 starters returning, and a seasoned quarterback at the helm.
Head coach Houston Nutt has stressed consistency throughout spring practice, telling his players that the same people picking them to win the SEC West was the same people picking them last the previous season.
The main holes on the team seem to definitely be the offensive line and, at times, the secondary. It's not so much that the Rebs lacks in talent at the offensive line, but experience on the offensive line seems to leave a void for some players to step up. If the Rebs can fill Michael Oher's spot, they'll be okay.
The strengths are obviously on the offensive side of the ball and the defensive line. Giving a quality SEC quarterback an array of receivers to work with can be deadly. Sophomore Brandon Bolden looks poised to break out, and the Wild-Rebel will again be key for the Rebel's offense to keep defenses off-balance.
The defensive line needs to keep up where they left off, after producing a school record 11 sacks in the Egg Bowl and getting to Graham Harrell time and time again in the Cotton Bowl. Losing Peria Jerry is a tough loss, but the Rebs seem to have the talent with Jerrell Powe, Ted Laurent, and Lawon Scott to find a quality replacement.
Derek Stephens is the Ole Miss Community Leader for BleacherReport.com. He can be reached at his bulletin board. Be sure to check out his personal blog, OleMissAthletics.net, as he covers all Ole Miss sports.