Ole Miss’ regular season recap: Despite disappointing finish, Rebels on pace for breakout 2014

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SDS recaps every team’s 2013 regular season:

Ole Miss Rebels

Final Record: 7-5 overall, 3-5 SEC

Hugh Freeze just got a raise and extension from Ole Miss for taking the Rebels to two straight bowl games. He’s 14-11 in two seasons, and the Rebels’ program is on the rise.

With the history of second-year coaches having big seasons like Urban Meyer at Florida, Les Miles at LSU and Nick Saban at Alabama, one could see the 18 returning starters and influx of freshmen talent propelling Ole Miss to be a darkhorse contender in the SEC West. It just didn’t happen, but let me say the recruiting class lived up to the hype and then some. Often throughout the season, the freshmen were the Rebels’ best players.

Close losses to Auburn, Texas A&M, Missouri and Mississippi State ultimately decided this team was good, but they weren’t ready to be great. The Rebels’ lone win over a currently ranked team came against LSU in a 27-24 upset in Oxford.

We knew that in order for the program to take a step forward, regardless of many returning starters, Bo Wallace would have to take a step forward. Wallace threw for more yards (3,090 vs. 2,994) and cut down on the INTs (9 vs. 17), but he still didn’t quite make the progression necessary to win big football games and put the Rebels in a position to win the division. Backup Barry Brunetti had a nice season as a role player, rushing for 279 yards and combining for 10 touchdowns.

The Rebels finished with three 400-yard running backs in I’Tavius Mathers, Jeff Scott and Jaylen Walton, but there was a lack of a ‘power’ back that was ultimately somewhat filled by Robert Nkemdiche in the Egg Bowl.

Receivers Donte Moncrief, Ja-Mes Logan and Laquon Football (LINE THROUGH) Treadwell all had big seasons, with Moncrief leading the corps with 825 yards and five touchdowns. Tight End Evan Engram played really well before his injury, and he ended up with 20 catches for 265 yards and three touchdowns.

The defense had two breakout players in 2013. Hybrid linebacker/safety Serderius Bryant had a huge season, making 70 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles. Safety Cody Prewitt also led the SEC with six interceptions, and he tied Bryant with 70 total tackles and registered seven pass breakups. Much like offense, freshmen Tony Connor and Robert Nkemdiche also lived up to the hype. Connor nabbed 59 tackles, four tackles for loss, five breakups and four QB hurries, while Nkemdiche totaled eight tackles for loss and two sacks.

The Rebels have more points and more rushing yards than last season, but they finished around the same mark in total defense. There’s a great young nucleus of returning players who should help take the defense to the next level.

Here’s a look at the team stats:

Category (SEC rank)
Scoring Offense 30.4 PPG (8th)
Rushing Offense 187.42 YPG (8th)
Passing Offense 285.6 YPG (3rd)
Total Offense 473 YPG (5th)
Scoring Defense 24.3 PPG (7th)
Rushing Defense 155.25 YPG (9th)
Passing Defense 221.3 YPG (8th)
Total Defense 376.5 YPG (7th)

One that got away: Ole Miss played several close games throughout the season, but the one that really got away came in the Egg Bowl. Say what you want, but I thought because the Rebels lost the Egg Bowl, a successful season might have flown out the window, despite winning more games and beating a ranked opponent in LSU. The loss helps build momentum for their in-state rival while adding a ‘yeah but’ to the Rebels’ seven-win season. I think the program is on the rise, but with the current players, namely at quarterback, can Ole Miss compete for a championship?

Offensive Stud: There isn’t really one guy you can look to on offense who helped this team score over 30 points per game and rack up 473 yards of total offense, but I thought freshman WR Laquon Treadwell gave them a different dimension than what they’ve had. He caught a team-high 67 passes for 557 yards and five touchdowns, and he was the second-half game plan in several contests, including the big win against Vandy to start the season. Treadwell will be one of the biggest threats in college football for 2014.

Defensive Stud: Several players stepped up this year, but none were bigger than Serderius Bryant. He recorded a team-high 70 tackles, a team-high 10.5 tackles for loss and added three sacks. After Denzel Nkemdiche went down with a knee injury in the first game, Bryant assumed the role of hybrid playmaker on defense, and he was a standout. Just a three-star and considered undersized at 5-10, Bryant will be a big-time playmaker next year.

What’s next: The Rebels need to create some momentum in the bowl game against Georgia Tech, a very winnable game. If Freeze signs yet another top recruiting class, and with another year in the system with several returning players, there’s a good chance the Rebels’ program makes a jump in 2014. Again, I come back to the quarterback position, and I’m just not sold on Wallace carrying this team to a championship. He needs to make a bigger progression this offseason. But I love the direction of the program, and the players are in place to compete for a division title next season.

Photo Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

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COMMENTS

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  • Kincade 2014. Book it.

  • Great article Jon. I agree 2014 could be a big year for Ole Miss for two main reasons. The first is like you said, Ole Miss is returning just about everyone and has be recruiting really well. So that should help add solid depth. The second reason is because a lot of teams are losing key players and QBs. Teams like Bama, LSU, A&M, Georgia, Mizzou, and South Carolina will be replacing very experienced QB’s that were very important to their success. So maybe Ole Miss can take advantage with so many teams trying to find a QB. Bo Wallace has shown flashes of being really good. Besides that last game against MSU, he played pretty well. I know a lot of ppl don’t like him, but he has done a lot for Ole Miss and he can run the Ole Miss offense with his eyes closed. So I’m hoping he will keep making progress.

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