With the offseason officially underway, SDS will examine what’s next for spring football for all 14 teams. Next up, Ole Miss.
Ole Miss opens up spring practice today, and the Rebels will be the third SEC team to do so. South Carolina and Ole Miss both open practice today, and the Rebels’ spring game will be April 5th. Ole Miss will enter the 2014 season with one of the most talented rosters. Now, it’s time for the program to take it to the next level.
With an improved offseason and spring practice, Ole Miss is primed to compete for a championship in 2014. The good news for the Rebels is not much is changing. The Rebels’ coaching staff remains intact for another season, which will pay dividends this coming year. Three significant players are gone in running back Jeff Scott, wide receiver Donte Moncrief and linebacker Mike Marry. None of the three losses are complete program changers, but the experience and impact all three had are undeniable.
Position of concern
There aren’t many significant concerns for the Rebels’ team, but my main concern is improving Bo Wallace’s game this spring. Wallace had offseason surgery last spring and missed 15 spring practices full of snaps, and his improvement is vital. Wallace made strides and better decisions from 2012 to 2013; still, there’s much more he can improve upon. Wallace is one of the handful of proven veteran returning quarterback starters, and the amount of success the Rebels’ team achieves will be resting on Wallace’s shoulders.
RELATED: SEC Pre-Spring Power Rankings
Position of strength
The one position coaches want to have depth and talent at is along the defensive line. And Ole Miss is in perfect position heading into 2014. With Robert Nkemdiche, Lavon Hooks and Isaac Gross returning at tackle and DT Shackelford, Cameron Whigham, CJ Johnson and Channing Ward all returning at end, the Rebels have to be licking their chops looking ahead to this season. This unit has loads of talent, experience and depth, and it’s the perfect recipe to build a championship program upon.
Three signees who will get you excited
1. CJ Hampton, DB: The Rebels return a loaded defensive backfield, but CJ Hampton is too good not to find some playing time. He’s an early enrollee and will compete for time this spring.
2. Rod Taylor, OL: Don’t tell Ole Miss you can’t play freshmen O-linemen, as Laremy Tunsil had a brilliant first year. Now, Rod Taylor, the country’s top-ranked offensive guard, gets his chance. He’s a road grader.
3. Kendrick Doss, QB: Okay, so maybe Doss has depth in front of him, but he’s a real player and will make an impact for the Rebels’ program. Don’t be surprised if he turns heads immediately as an early enrollee.
Spring’s primary position battle
The Rebels’ primary position battle takes place at right tackle. Pierce Burton has now graduated, and several will compete for the job. Fahn Cooper may win the job before the season starts, but he’s not around for spring drills. Redshirt freshmen Davion Johnson and Daronte Bouldin will compete this spring. Robert Conyers is a third-year sophomore who was listed behind Burton on the depth chart. Keep an eye on the Rebels’ right tackle this spring.
Emerging spring player prediction
With Jeff Scott gone, the Rebels need a burner besides Jaylen Walton in the backfield handling primary carries. That player will be rising sophomore Mark Dodson. He recorded 124 rushing yards on 22 carries with one touchdown. The former Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year fits the Rebels’ spread attack to a T.
Offseason’s burning question
With the entire roster looking strong, does Hugh Freeze win a championship with Bo Wallace?
Rebels’ offseason crystal ball
The starting lineup is pretty much set on both sides of the ball. This is a huge spring for Bo Wallace and the offense, creating a better rapport and a more potent passing game. Wallace improved from 2012 to 2013, and this spring is another building block to building a championship program. There is not one major concern on the roster, and Ole Miss will start to gain some momentum heading into 2014. There’s a real chance that with back-to-back strong recruiting classes, the time for competing for championships is now.
Photo Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports