Published February 4, 2012 - 11:19am
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Biggest Needs: 2011 was a season that most Ole Miss fans want to forget, and there are plenty of holes to fill all over the field for the Rebels. Offensively Ole Miss needs help at running back. Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis both graduate. While neither guy was stellar, and both were plagued by injury, that is still a lot of depth to replace. Up front, the Rebs will be looking to replace both starters at offensive tackle. Bradley Sowell was a senior, but the early departure of Bobbie Massie came as a bit of a surprise. The one bright spot for the offense had to have been the young and talented receiving corps. If they can sure up the QB issue, things might look a little better than a 2-10 record.
Defensively, the Rebels were young, and it showed. Ole Miss ranked 90th in the nation in total defense, and even though only a few guys leave, they still need more help. The biggest losses to this defense come up front with the graduation of DE Kentrell Lockett, DT Justin Smith, and DE Wayne Dorsey. All of these players led the defense in some capacity, and it is difficult to replace depth up front. Safety Damien Jackson also was a senior, and he was third on the team in tackles. All in all, the Rebels return a lot of experience next year, and they can hope that some young guys provide a needed spark in Coach Hugh Freeze’s first season.
Needs Met: Needs are met for the short term. Offensively the Rebels needed some help up front, and they signed four offensive linemen. However, three out of the four guys signed are JUCO transfers. I think most will agree that Darone Bailey, Ben Still, or Pierce Burton will play next year, but they will not be on campus for that long. The Rebels did fill some huge needs in the backfield by signing three quality backs. I think Kenno Loyal at FB is going to be a load, and I look for RB I’Tavius Mathers to be a nice compliment to starter Jeff Scott next year. Again, Ole Miss looked to the JUCO ranks to sure up QB help by signing Bo Wallace, and I think he could compete for the starting job in 2012. The Rebs rounded out their class by signing a couple of receivers, but with the guys already on campus, I look for them to redshirt.
Defensively Ole Miss managed to keep DE Channing Ward in-state, and he is easily the best player in this class. Look for Ward to come in and play immediately over the other three defensive linemen brought in. The Rebs signed a couple of defensive backs, and most look for JUCO CB Dehendret Collins to come in and play immediately. However, Safety Trae Elston is a bit of a sleeper prospect from the state of Alabama. Elston has huge upside, and I would not be surprised to see him push for playing time next year.
Biggest Get: Channing Ward. The teams in Mississippi have struggled to keep the top talent in-state, and Ward was a huge get for Hugh Freeze and his staff.
Biggest Miss: Anthony Alford. The Rebels need a long term solution at QB, and they let Southern Miss get this guy. That was a shock to say the least.
Final Evaluation: Ole Miss signed 17 players, but five of the 17 are JUCO guys that are only short term solutions. While some teams have success doing this, the coaches are already having to recruit the JUCO replacements. Also, outside of Channing Ward, there are not a lot of sure bets in this recruiting class. Ole Miss fans better hope for a lot of sleepers in this class.
Final Grade: C