Ole Miss Football: Spring Over, Now Waiting on Robert Nkemdiche and Crew
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
They have new energy, new uniforms, and coming this summer, the Ole Miss Rebels have a new batch of players coming to Oxford.
Only this time, the class is different.
It's the new look of the Ole Miss, and is headlined by the No. 1 overall prospect in the country—defensive end Robert Nkemdiche.
But the Rebels will return 18 starters from last year's squad, which means that the newcomers will have their hands full breaking into the starting lineup.
Defensively, all eyes will be on Nkemdiche when camp opens up this summer.
Head coach Hugh Freeze lost star defensive end C.J. Johnson this spring to a broken foot, but the rising junior should be back and at 100 percent for fall camp. Nkemdiche will join Johnson and sophomore Channing Ward, who has tremendous upside, in creating one of the most dangerous pass rushes in the SEC in 2013.
Safety Tony Conner was the subject of a heated recruiting battle down the stretch run leading up to national signing day, and he will join a crowded secondary when he arrives on campus. Trae Elston played well down the stretch, which will likely allow Conner to play the hybrid "husky" role for the Rebels.
Ole Miss isn't plugging holes, it's finding room for its new stars.
The speedy Jeff Scott will likely be the primary running back, but the Rebs have options there now too with I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton established as backups. Walton is more of a speedster like Scott, so expect Mathers and early enrollee Mark Dodson to receive those tough carries between the tackles early on. Kailo Moore and Jordan Wilkins—both of whom have four stars attached to their names from 247Sports.com—will join the battle for carries this summer.
Freeze knows what he has with junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief and will benefit from the emergence of senior wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan this spring. Logan caught five passes for 101 yards in the spring game, which was the culmination of a stellar spring.
"Ja-Mes probably had the best spring of anybody," head coach Hugh Freeze in quotes released by the university after the game. "He was solid every single day, and he made some nice plays today."
Also joining the mix was junior college transfer Quadarias Mireles, who can play either defensive back or wide receiver, but will probably stay on the offensive side of the ball when toe meets leather this fall.
That's huge, because Ole Miss expects big things from 247Sports.com 5-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell once he arrives on campus this spring. The 6'3", 195-pounder from Crete, Ill., has the 4.4 speed to be a deep threat, but the body to be a weapon over the middle.
Where will Ole Miss finish in the SEC West in 2013?
In other words, the Rebels have options at wide receiver. The combination of Freeze plus options creates heartburn for opposing defensive coordinators.
Ole Miss returns both offensive tackles, and Laremy Tunsil—the nation's No. 4 overall prospect in the class of 2013 according to 247 Sports Composite—will enroll this summer. The fact that Freeze is forced to move around some pieces of the puzzle on the offensive line due to too much talent is a "rich man's problem."
Freeze has orchestrated one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the SEC in just over a year on the job. He resurrected a 2-10 program to lead the Rebels to a bowl game in his first season, lost three really close games in the process (Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and LSU), nabbed one of the top recruiting classes in the country and is returning a small village of starters on both sides of the ball.
Stay tuned, because when the talent injection comes later this summer, things could get interesting in Oxford.
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