Rebels must replace Moncrief, Scott as page turns to new season
No team is immune to losing talented players from year to year, but Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace will be tasked with integrating new faces into an offense losing its top receiver and one of its top running backs.
Donte Moncrief, Wallace’s top receiver in 2013, is now with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, leaving behind a major hole in the Rebels’ passing game. Moncrief caught 59 passes for 968 yards and six touchdowns as a senior, and was able to run every route in the offense. Moncrief made defenders pay in space on bubble screens and burned cheating defensive backs down the field as well.
To make matters worse for Ole Miss, the passing game also lost wideout Ja-Mes Logan, whose 44 catches, 583 yards and three touchdowns were all third on the team in 2013, as well as Jordan Holder, who caught 15 passes for 128 yards last year. Logan and Holder have since graduated from Ole Miss.
Replacing Moncrief, Logan and Holder will begin first and foremost with sophomore Laquon Treadwell. As a freshman in 2013 Treadwell led the team with 72 catches and was second on the team with 608 yards and five touchdowns. He will enter this season as Wallace’s primary target, and must establish himself as one of the conference’s top receivers to help the offense’s continued progression under head coach Hugh Freeze.
Ole Miss also lost versatile tailback Jeff Scott, who battled injuries throughout his senior season in Oxford. He carried the ball 67 times for 493 yards and two touchdowns, and also caught 16 passes for 107 yards in 2013. Replacing Scott’s veteran presence and deadliness in the open field will be more difficult for Ole Miss than replacing his production in the backfield, as the Rebels return their top-two rushers from last season in I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton (combined 1,086 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013).
And while the offense is firmly in the hands Wallace, the Rebels may miss some of the added production they received from backup quarterback Barry Brunetti last season. Brunetti was a power-running alternative at quarterback who paid major dividends in the red zone. Brunetti attempted just 41 passes last season (completing 23 for 294 yards and six touchdowns), but he ran the ball 60 times for 310 yards and four touchdowns, mostly in short-yardage situations. Whether it be a quarterback or tailback, Ole Miss will need to find a new power runner for these same situations in the coming year.
The Rebels’ defense returns each of its top-five tacklers from 2013, with its biggest loss coming in the form of mike linebacker Mike Marry (52 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and one sack as a senior). Cameron Whigham’s 37 tackles and 2.5 sacks will also be missed on the defensive line, but Ole Miss will not lose any other players who recorded at least 20 tackles last season.
On special teams the Rebels must replace place kicker Andrew Ritter, who suffered through a turbulent 2013 season in Oxford. Ritter converted just 42-of-45 extra points and just 16-of-24 field goal attempts and was the subject of plenty of moans and groans from Rebels fans. The Rebels currently have five place kickers on their roster, none of whom attempted a kick last season.