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College Football Preview: 23. Ole Miss Rebels

23. Ole Miss Rebels

There is a ton of excitement in Oxford and for good reason. The Rebels increased their win total from two to seven, return a ton of starters from last year's team and brings in one of the best recruiting classes in the school's history. This Rebels team is extremely talented but a tough schedule could keep Ole Miss from reaching their vast potential.

Backfield: Part of last season's resurgence was the performance of quarterback Bo Wallace who will be a junior in 2013. Wallace racked up 2,994 passing yards and proved to be a dual threat recording 390 rushing yards. He
Jeff Scott
has a very strong arm and should continue to take major steps. He had shoulder surgery in January but should be ready for Week 1 against Vanderbilt. The tailback is in good hands as well with senior Jeff Scott. The tiny (5-7) back is an explosive threat and has game changing speed. Scott recorded 846 rushing yard and also proved to be a reliable receiver out of the backfield. Not a lot of people know but coach Hugh Freeze and staff managed to greatly improve their backfield with two four-star backs in Kailo Moore and Jordan Wilkins. Both aren't as fast or nearly as explosive as Scott and one or both might be heading to a redshirt.

Receivers: The Rebels' receiving corps is loaded with experience and playmaking with the returns of junior Donte Moncrief and senior Ja-Mes Logan. Moncrief proved to be a sure handed threat through much of 2012, recording 979 yards and 10 touchdowns. He does most of his damage by using his downfield speed and making some fabulous catches. Logan is a big target who can also be explosive and can take a beating. The most exciting player in this unit will probably be four-star Laquon Treadwell who is the number one incoming receiver in the 2013 recruiting class. Treadwell also is a downfield option but also is consistent and can make plays all over the field. Junior wide out Vince Sanders returns to give Wallace a ton of options in an improving pass game. Wallace and this offense should also lean heavily on freshman tight end John Youngblood who isn't too much of a receiver but can also help in the blocking game. Along with Treadwell, another newcomer, JUCO transfer Nickolas Brassell should make plays.

Offensive Line: This unit is just average at the moment but the future is bright with the addition of some great offensive linemen. Gone is important guard A.J. Hawkins but the return of senior tackle Emmanuel McCray. The massive McCray takes up a lot of space on the left side and has the strength to be a beast even against the great pass rushers of this conference. Senior center Evan Swindall is a beast up the middle who should anchor the unit. Swindall moves well and has a great connection with Wallace. Left guard Aaron Morris is a 330 pound monster who can shove aside defenders with ease. But he isn't the most mature and struggles to recognize blitzers. This unit's strength is it's experience as four of the five likely to start on the line are seniors, while Morris is the only junior on it. Lake City, Florida product Laremy Tunsil is a future pro and should have a great career for the Rebels first. The Number One offensive tackle in this year's class, Tunsil is big and athletic and has loads of potential though he may need to bulk up a little bit this year. The No. 3 tackle in this class also is arriving in Oxford in Austin Golson. The fact that Freeze and his staff managed to go into the state of Alabama and steal him from the Crimson Tide proved a lot.

Defensive Line: Mention the name Robert Nkemdiche around Ole Miss fans and they will instantly get excited. The No. 1 overall prospect in the 2013 recruiting class has the talent and is polished enough to start right away. The strong and great sized Nkemdiche can pressure the quarterback and possibly make a lot of tackles. Sophomore Channing Ward was one of the great commits in last year's class but he struggled throughout '12 and should get pressured right away in Nkemdiche. Junior C.J. Johnson will probably start at the other end spot after a solid last season in which he recorded 6.5 sacks. Though he suffered through a broken leg this spring and it is anybody's guess whether he will be ready for the Vanderbilt game. Up the middle, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack will have to rely on tackle Byron Bennett who can stuff up the run and sophomore Isaac Gross who is very athletic for his position. The top JUCO prospect in all the land, Lavon Hooks, should get an opportunity to start from the beginning.
Denzel Nkemdiche

Linebackers: Robert's brother, Denzel, is already an established star over in Oxford. The sophomore had an incredible freshman year recording 82 tackles and leads all returning Rebels in tackles. The other Nkemdiche isn't too big but can serve as both a pass rusher and a coverage 'backer. He has great instincts and has fabulous range from sideline to sideline. Senior Mike Marry returns to give the Rebels' a lot of experience at the middle linebacker position. Marry has a football mind and is also a quality coverage linebacker. Another sophomore, Trae Elston should likely end up starting at the Rover postion. This allows him to roam the field and spend time at a ton of different roles such as a run stopper and pass rusher. Florence, Alabama, star Rashawn Smith could be heading for a redshirt with how talented this group is right now but the three-star talent's future, like a lot of this team, is very bright.

Secondary: This was a concern last season for the Rebels as they allowed 246.5 yards per game. Much of last year's team returns and like the rest of this team a solid recruiting effort should help now and in the future. At times junior Cody Prewitt was one of the most impressive defensive backs in the SEC, like when he racked up 13 tackles in the loss to Alabama. Hopefully with more experience he should continue to keep that level of play on a consistent basis. The 6-2 defensive back should likely start at the free safety position. The Rebels like to run a three cornerback system which means that senior Charles Sawyer, junior Nick Brassell and likely junior Senquez Golson should all start. Sawyer is great because of his experience and even though Brassell and Golson are raw both are athletic and have potential. The No.2 safety in this class, Antonio Conner, will impress in the future and if this unit continues to be below average he should get chances right away.

The Rebels could be one of the nation's best in a few years but they might need some time to adjust. Their schedule is brutal, with trips to Alabama, Texas and the opening matchup against Vandy. But, this Rebels team has the talent and potential to be improve mightily in 2013 whether it shows in the record or not.

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