SDS kicks off a series looking in-depth at teams and their biggest subplots heading into 2013. Up next: Ole Miss.
- Mississippi State
- Ole Miss
- South Carolina
- Texas A&M
1. A year early?
Ole Miss’ expectations should be high this season. Hugh Freeze sent shockwaves around the SEC when he transformed a 2-10 team into a 7-6 bowl-winning, up-and-coming program. I penned this gem back in February, asking whether this team is a legit contender for the Western crown. We’re probably a year premature, but with 18 returning starters and the success of second-year head coaches, I could see Ole Miss moving into that second or third slot in the West. The Rebels host both LSU and Texas A&M this season after almost pulling the upset card last year. It could happen, and I believe we’re only a year away from the Rebels being a legit contender in the division.
2. Impact recruiting class
The success on the field didn’t stop there. The Ice Man went ahead and inked a top five recruiting class that features top prospect Robert Nkemdiche and two other top players in Laremy Tunsil and Laquon Treadwell. Of all the new signees, I look for Nkemdiche, Lavon Hooks, Treadwell and Tony Connor to have the biggest impact. But don’t forget about running back Mark Dodson, who showed out this spring. That’s five to watch for, but I have a feeling Tunsil is going to find playing time. He’s too talented.
3. ‘Sunshine’ Wallace
Ole Miss will go as far as Bo Wallace takes them this season. He was up and down last year with 22 TDs and 17 INTs, but he has talent all around him. He’s a seasoned starter now, and the speed of the game should slow way down from last season. Wallace dominated JUCO, and he has the ability to be the most improved player in the SEC. How high can he take the Rebels’ offense?
4. All about the defense
The bad news is the Rebels’ defense lost two defensive tackles in Gilbert Pena and Uriah Grant. The good news is they got better by adding Lavon Hooks and Robert Nkemdiche, not to mention they return CJ Johnson, Channing Ward, Isaac Gross and Cameron Whigham. The linebackers are deep, headlined by Denzel Nkemdiche and Mike Marry. The secondary still concerns me. They finished 11th best in the conference but return all four starters. If DBs Trae Elston and Senquez Golson can show marked improvement, the sky is the limit for this unit and team.
SDS takeaway: I love the direction this program is headed entering 2013. The key to the entire season is week one against Vanderbilt. The Rebels beat Vandy, and they are set up for a very successful season. Regardless, winning less than eight regular games is a down year, and this team looks to be loading up for an epic 2014 season.
Photo Credit: Beth Hall-US PRESSWIRE