2012 Ole Miss Preview – Offense
Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Ole Miss Rebel Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Co-coordinators Matt Luke and Dan Werner have lots and lots of work to do to implement the Hugh Freeze spread offense. The first step will be to generate production from a line that failed to generate any sort of a push for the running game, was awful in pass protection and isn't built to work a spread offensive attack. The quarterback situation is up in the air with three options and last year's top passer – Randall Mackey – moving to help out a mediocre receiver situation. The running backs are really, really thin behind the diminutive Jeff Scott, who has to get past some academic issues and can't be used as a workhorse. There's athleticism and speed among the skill players, and the line is massive, but the offense that finished 116th in the nation in scoring and 114th in yards has to find something it can do right early on.
Star of the offense: Senior RB Brandon Bolden
Passing: Randall Mackey (WR)
77-155, 1,112 yds, 7 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Jeff Scott
116 carries, 529 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Dontre Moncrief
31 catches, 454 yds, 4 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior QB Randall Mackey and/or Sophomore QB Barry Brunetti
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Ja-Mes Logan
Best pro prospect: Junior OT Bobby Massie
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Massie, 2) OT Bradley Sowell, 3) Bolden
Strength of the offense: Line Size, Running Back
Weakness of the offense: Veteran Quarterback, No. 1 Receiver
The passing game was disastrous and could never seem to find the right fit with three different starters. The same might be true this year unless the coaching staff can come up with one guy who can work with the spread on a consistent basis this summer. 6-0, 215-pound junior Barry Brunetti should be the perfect fit with excellent running ability and good enough passing skills to get by, but he hasn't been able to take the job by the horns. The West Virginia transfer and former Elite 11 high school prospect started the season opener and saw time in five game completing 54% of his passes for 144 yards, while running for 110 yards, but now he's in an attack that highlights his abilities.
Sophomore Bo Wallace isn't going to run around and he isn't a mobile option, but the 6-5, 210-pound JUCO transfer from East Mississippi is coming of a NJCAA national title after bombing away for 4,604 yards and 53 scores. The former Elite 11 camper originally signed on with Arkansas State in 2010
when Freeze was the offensive coordinator, didn't play, and then took a year off to play at the lower level before moving to Ole Miss.
In a bit of a shocker, senior Zack Stoudt wasn't on the post-spring two-deep depth chart even though he was a big part of spring ball. The 6-4, 217-pound transfer from Iowa Western CC, and the son of former Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Cliff Stoudt, has great tools and nice passing touch, but he didn't do much when he got his chances in four starts completing just 48% of his passes for 559 yards and two scores with eight picks.
Watch Out For … Wallace. He didn't transfer to Ole Miss to sit on the bench. He's a good, smart passer who could wing it around the yard like Freeze wants to do. He's not going to take off and be a multi-dimensional playmaker, but he could put up big numbers through the air.
Strength: Options. This was a negative last year as all the options turned out to be awful, but at least there are players to turn to in an effort to find the right fit. There are three solid FBS quarterbacks for the new coaching staff to work with.
Weakness: Throwing the football. Wallace could change all that, and Stoudt and Brunetti are better than they looked last year, but putting former starter and current receiver Randall Mackey in the mix, Ole Miss quarterbacks combined to complete fewer than half of their passes for 1,820 yards and nine touchdowns with 13 interceptions while failing to add much to the running game.
Outlook: If you have two starting quarterbacks, you don't have one. Ole Miss has three. The goal is to find someone, anyone, who can be consistent, efficient and occasionally dangerous. The Rebels need a difference-maker and they need to stick with him through thick and thin.
Unit Rating: 6
The only real question about junior Jeff Scott is whether or not he hits the books hard enough. There are a few academic concerns, but as long as he's on the field he'll be productive. The team's leading rusher last year didn't get much room to move on the way to 529 yards and six touchdowns averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He also finished fourth on the team with 15 catches for 99 yards, but he couldn't seem to break free. 138 of his yards came against Fresno State and 118 more and three scores came against Southern Illinois, but he was the best option but wasn't part of the mix late in the season. At 5-7 and 175 pounds he's not built to be a workhorse, but he has 4.3 speed with elite punt return talent and upside as a kickoff returner.
Adding a bit more power to the mix, just a little, is senior Devin Thomas, a San Antonio native who got a little bit of work in last year and got the start against Alabama, but he only ran for 73 yards and a score on 20 carries on the season. Mostly a special teamer, he has returned a few kicks here and there but now he'll be a No. 2 back in the rotation.
6-0, 190-pound sophomore Tobias Singleton came to Ole Miss as a receiver, and he led the team as a kickoff returner averaging 24 yards per kick, now he'll work as a speedy running back option. A top prospect and a great get for the program, he caught just two passes for 12 yards in his true freshman season. The coaching staff will have to invent ways to get the ball in his hands in open spaces.
On the way is star prospect I'tavius Mathers, a 6-0, 195-pound flash from Tennessee who won the Gatorade Tennessee Player of the Year honor in his junior season after tearing off 2,614 yards and 29 scores. He followed it up with 2,253 yards and 27 scores last year with the speed and the finishing ability to step in and take over the job right away.
Watch Out For … Singleton. The backfield needs more options and unless Thomas can prove he's ready to get more work, Singleton will have to play a bigger role. He's too good a prospect not to be a factor.
Strength: Speed. Finding space to move against SEC defense was a problem last year, but if this group gets into the open field the chances for home runs will be there. Scott can fly and Singleton is a blazer.
Weakness: The backup situation. Scott can't handle the ball 30 times a game and the off-field question marks suddenly make the depth chart very, very important. Thomas has yet to show much and Singleton and Mathers are prospects.
Outlook: This was supposed to be a huge plus last year but Brandon Bolden didn't come through and Scott didn't quite become Dexter McCluster. With no fear of a passing game to worry about, defenses teed off on the Ole Miss backfield and the ground game didn't go anywhere. Scott has to be a bit of an iron man early on and the backups have to quickly show they can produce when needed.
Unit Rating: 6.5
The receiving corps needs a No. 1 target and Donte Moncrief has to do more at the X. The 6-2, 217-pound sophomore had a good first season leading the team with 31 catches for 454 yards and four scores, but he was erased by the great teams catching one pass for -5 yards in the games against Alabama and LSU. While he didn't score over the final five games of the season, he came up with two touchdowns against Arkansas and showed the potential to be the team's go-to receiver. He has to be able to handle going against everyone's top corner and has to come up with a deep play a game to stretch out the attack.
Assuming Brassell will stay on defense, junior Ja-Mes Logan needs to become the main man after finishing third on the team with 20 catches for 274 yards. He didn't score and he only caught one pass over the last four games, but he averaged 13.7 yards per grab. With 6-2, 190-pound size and great speed, he has the tools. Now he needs a good passing quarterback to get the ball his way. He'll be backed up by 6-1, 190-pound sophomore Vince Sanders, the star recruit of two years ago with excellent deep speed and enough size to get by. He caught ten passes for 110 yards with six of his grabs coming over the final three games of the year.
Spot-starter Collins Moore got plenty of time as a true freshman starting three times but only finishing with four catches for 69 yards averaging 17.2 yards per grab. The 6-1, 187-pound sophomore has a world of upside and can stretch the field, but he'll have to prove he can go across the middle on a regular basis.
Battling for time in the rotation at the H with Moore will be 5-11, 190-pound junior Philander Moore, a top return option who averaged 21.7 yards per kickoff return. He only caught five passes for 15 yards, averaging just 2.8 yards per grab, but he has the ability to do far, far more after helping lead Blinn CC to a JUCO national championship. He might not be all that big, but he can fly.
Will Randall Mackey be a stronger receiver than he was a quarterback? The 5-11, 195-pound senior led the team with 1,112 yards and seven scores with five picks, but he completed fewer than half of his passes and didn't do enough with his speed and mobility running for just 180 yards and a touchdown. He has the athleticism and he can be a good route-runner, but he needs time.
Long-time starting tight end Ferbia Allen is back, but he has yet to do much of anything for the passing game with just six catches for 69 yards last season after coming into the year with 11 career catches. A good blocker with 6-4, 250-pound size, he can hit, moves well, and has the ability to be a far bigger part of the passing attack. He'll split time again with 6-4, 260-pound spot-starter Jamal Mosley who transferred over from Oklahoma State and was supposed to be a key part of the passing game right away. A good route runner, the senior was mostly a blocker but caught 12 passes for 166 yards and a score with a 61-yard play in the season finale against Mississippi State.
Watch Out For … Logan. The passing game has to find one guy the quarterbacks can count on to do big things and Logan has the experience and the talent to do it. The upside is there, but he needs a good quarterback to get him the ball.
Strength: Speed. Ole Miss doesn't lack for speedsters. There's good athleticism and nice size – the group looks the part. On pure wheels the Rebels should be able to stretch the field.
Weakness: Sure-thing stars. Losing second-leading receiver Nickolas Brassell to the defense and then to academics will hurt. Moncrief has a world up upside, Logan is fine, Sanders is a talent, and both Moores can move, but where's the top-shelf star to revolve the passing game around if it's not Moncrief? He was good, but he didn't make defensive coordinators worry.
Outlook: There's upside, and there's a chance this group could blossom with the right quarterback – like JUCO transfer Bo Wallace – but there's a lot of proving to be done. Size isn't a problem and speed is there to burn, but one guy has to step up and be the man and the veteran tight ends have to be used more. If the coaching staff has everything in place right away, this could turn out to be the biggest immediate area of improvement.
Unit Rating: 6.5
The offensive line was a stunning disaster and was arguably one of the nation's most disappointing units. Even though the Rebels were awful at keeping the quarterbacks clean, the loss of tackles Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie is still a big deal. Filling in on the left side will be junior Emmanuel McCray, a 6-5, 319-pound mountain who was supposed to be a part of the mix last year but was out all of last year. He has issues with his knees suffering from tendonitis, but he's a great talent who should grow into a good blocker if he can stay healthy. If he can't then 6-3, 305-pound JUCO transfer Derrick Wilson will step in. Big and strong, he should be a factor right away in the rotation after spending last season at East Mississippi CC.
JUCO transfer Pierce Burton started off his career at San Jose State, moved to College of San Francisco, and now he's going to work at right tackle after leading the team to a California JUCO state title last year. At 6-7 and 290 pounds he has the frame and has just good enough feet to make him hard to get around, but he'll take his lumps early on against the more physical SEC ends. He'll be backed up by 6-6, 320-pound junior Patrick Junen, a starting guard last year on the left side for six games with excellent size and decent athleticism. While he's built for the inside, and could move back there, he'll be a good run blocker one spot over.
Anchoring the line will be 6-2, 300-pound junior center Evan Swindall, who took over the starting job halfway through last season and turned in a decent year. While he's not small, he's not a massive body compared to the rest of the Rebel linemen. He's a quick, versatile blocker who can hold his own and knows what he's doing in the middle.
6-5, 325-pound sophomore Aaron Morris got five started at left guard as a true freshman and should be set at the position for the next three years. Built a bit like a tackle he has the length, frame, and talent after being one of the team's top recruits, but he has to quickly adjust to life as a spread blocker. Adding even more size is 6-2, 337-pound redshirt freshman Justin Bell, a bowling ball of a blocker who's a pure guard for either side.
Moving permanently to right guard is 6-3, 315-pound senior A.J. Hawkins, last year's starting center. He took over the job in the middle two years ago, bulked up, and turned into a strong, tough blocker but only played in the first five games. With Swindall proving he could handle the work, Hawkins will now step in for 12-game starter Matt Hall. Behind him is massive 6-7, 335-pound junior Jared Duke, a special teamer last year after starting five times at right guard two years ago. A great recruit for the program, there was some thought that he'd be moved to tackle, but he's a guard.
Watch Out For … movement. It's going to take a little while for the coaching staff to find the right fits for the right spots, and while there isn't a ton of versatility up front, there could be some wild depth chart changes to find the right starting five.
Strength: Size. Ole Miss doesn't have a problem finding gigantic human beings to man the line. If you're not 6-3 and at least 325 pounds you're a lightweight. With this much bulk there shouldn't be any problems generating a push, but …
Weakness: Production. The line was awful in pass protection even with two NFL draftable tackles, and there wasn't nearly enough of a push for the ground game. This isn't a line built for the spread with mediocre athleticism across the board.
Outlook: This could take a little while, but the transition would be that massive if all the huge blockers can simply learn how to shadow and wall off their men. Last year's line was a spectacular dud, and while this year's line won't have any of the same expectations it's too big and too promising to be that bad again.
Unit Rating: 6.5
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