2013 Ole Miss Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Ole Miss Rebel Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The offense that was trying to put the pieces together in Hugh Freeze's first year should be far sharper and more explosive with eight starters returning along with a slew of terrific new recruits for offensive coordinators Matt Luke and Dan Werner to play around with. The quarterback situation that was a bit of a question mark going into last season should be settled with Bo Wallace at the helm, but he has to cut down on his interceptions and needs more time to work behind a leaky line. The offensive front gets back four starters, but it has to be far better in pass protection. Jeff Scott leads a lightning-fast group of young and talented runners, while Donte Moncrief should be an All-SEC talent in a receiving corps that gets everyone back.
Star of the offense: Junior WR Donte Moncrief
Passing: Bo Wallace
235-368, 2,994 yds, 22 TD, 17 INT
Rushing: Jeff Scott
197 carries, 846 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Donte Moncreif
66 catches, 979 yds, 10 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior WR Ja-Mes Logan
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB I'Tavius Mathers
Best pro prospect: Freshman OT Laremy Tunsil
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Moncrief, 2) RB Jeff Scott, 3) OG Aaron Morris
Strength of the offense: Experience, Speed
Weakness of the offense: Pass Protection, Tight End
A concern going into last year, the quarterback situation is now relatively settled with junior Bo Wallace proving as last year went on that he can more than handle the job. Rising up out of a slew of other options, the 6-4, 204-pound former JUCO transfer from East Mississippi showed why he was good enough to lead his team to the NJCAA national title by completing 64% of his passes for 2,994 yards and 22 touchdowns while finishing second on the team with 390 rushing yards and eight scores. While he's not expected to be all that mobile, he took off from time to time and made the plays that were there, running around 11 times per game, but he was at his best when he got to bomb away throwing for 403 yards against Vanderbilt and pushing LSU and Texas A&M each for over 300 yards. However, Ole Miss lost all three of those games. Going into this year, first he has to heal up after missing spring ball recovering from clavicle surgery, and then he has to figure out how to cut down on his interceptions after giving away 17 on the year and seven in the final three games. The Rebels were able to beat Pitt and Mississippi State when he threw multiple picks, but they lost the other four games when he threw two or more.
With Wallace out in spring ball, senior Barry Brunetti and sophomore Maikhail Miller got in most of the work. The 6-0, 212-pound Brunetti seemed like he should've been the perfect fit for the offense, but the mobile transfer from West Virginia hasn't been able to do enough to grab the job, throwing for just 196 yards and a score – but running for 277 yards and three touchdowns – in his limited time. The massive 6-2, 240-pound Miller is a big prospect with a live arm, but he needs game experience.
On the way are two of the team's top recruits Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade, but they missed spring ball and won't likely see the light of day for the next few years. The 6-1, 185-pound Kincade is the better of the two prospects, but he's a different type of player with dual-threat talents and excellent quickness – he might be the better overall fit for Freeze. The 6-4, 205-pound Buchanan is a pure passer who can run a little bit, but is at his best in the pocket.
Watch Out For … Miller. He saw a little bit of time last year and got in a few carries, but he came to Ole Miss as a top prospect with terrific all-around skills. Wallace is the sure-thing No. 1, but Miller needs to establish himself as the top backup while pushing hard if there's any inconsistency in the top spot.
Strength: Mobile options. There might not be a Johnny Manziel among the quarterbacks, but Wallace showed last year that he could move a little bit and Miller and Brunetti can both run. Kincade is probably the most dangerous running quarterback on the roster.
Weakness: Wallace's interceptions. He drove the coaching staff mad at times with his interceptions – the Pitt game would've been a particular problem if it wasn't such an easy win – and he has to clean things up. The Rebels can't make much noise in the SEC West without winning the turnover battle on a regular basis, and it starts with cutting down on the picks.
Outlook: The quarterback situation went from a concern to a positive in a big hurry after weeding out the prospects last offseason. It's Wallace's show unless he keeps screwing up, but unlike last year at this time, the backup situation should be better.
Unit Rating: 7
After getting past a few academic concerns, senior Jeff Scott turned in a decent season with a team-leading 846 yards and six touchdowns with 100-yard efforts in four games including the loss to Texas A&M and the win over Mississippi State. The 5-7, 170-pound speedster has 4.3 wheels and could be an elite punt returner at the next level, but for now he needs to be more of a home run hitter out of the backfield after averaging just 4.3 yards per carry with the longest run of just 48 yards. A decent receiver, he caught 23 passes for 177 yards and a score, but he couldn't seem to break free averaging just 7.7 yards per play.
Scott is the No. 1 back, but sophomore Jaylen Walton is a good-looking young option running for 118 yards and a score and catching three passes for 57 yards and a touchdown in his limited action. Just 5-8 and 167 pounds, he doesn't have the size, but he can scoot averaging 24.7 yards per kickoff return with a score. Also in the rotation will be true sophomore I'Tavius Mathers, a 5-11, 196-pound flash who was named Gatorade Tennessee Player of the Year as a junior after tearing off 2,614 yards and 29 scores. Fast, tough and talented, he got his feet wet early last season, but he wasn't used much until the bowl game when he ripped of 96 yards and a score on just six carries.
New recruit Mark Dodson got to school early to try becoming a part of the mix right away. The 5-10, 193-pounder out of Tennessee was the state's 2012 Gatorade Player of the Year after running for 3,295 yards and 37 scores last season. He's ready right out of the box, but 5-10, 190-pound Kailo Moore might be the better talent. Lightning fast, he's a track star with a 10.3 in the 100 and 21.22 in the 200. If the backfield is too crowded, he could be used in a variety of ways as a receiver and a return man.
Watch Out For … Mathers. Even with the star recruits coming in, and despite the upside of Walton and the experience of Scott, Mathers might be the best back on the roster. If he gets the ball on a regular basis, he could grow into a star.
Strength: Speed. Scott is a sub-4.4 guy and he might not be the fastest back on the roster. The Rebel backs can absolutely fly, giving the coaching staff several fun toys to play around with. Get these guys in space and they're gone.
Weakness: Production. Oh yeah, the SEC. The SEC defenses have speed and talent, too, giving the Rebels a hard time when it comes to getting the ground attack rolling. Auburn and Mississippi State were the only two SEC teams Ole Miss was able to crank out 200 rushing yards against. However, this backfield will crank up the numbers on the mediocre.
Outlook: It's a terrific situation with some of the brightest and speediest young runners in the SEC. Scott is a tried and true No. 1, but he's not going to have to carry the workload with speed, speed and more speed behind him. There's no power whatsoever in the backfield, but if the line does its job, the backs will come through.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Junior Donte Moncrief is coming off a phenomenal season, tying the school record with ten touchdown grabs on 66 catches for 979 yards. In back-to-back weeks he lit up LSU and Mississippi State for 13 catches for 334 yards and five scores after scoring just once in his first six SEC games. At 6-3 and 216 pounds he has tremendous size and the deep speed to stretch the field despite dealing with every team's No. 1 corner. With a strong supporting cast around him, he should see plenty of single coverage and should be even more productive.
All the top targets are back including No. 2 man Ja-Mes Logan, who got the start in five games and turned in a steady season catching 43 passes for 490 yards and a score, with eight catches and 160 of the yards coming against Vanderbilt. The 6-3, 195-pound senior isn't a top playmaker, but he knows what he's doing, while 6-1, 190-pound junior Vince Sanders has the upside and ability to become a star at the Z after finishing third on the team with 39 catches for 504 yards and four scores. The star recruit of three years ago has excellent deep speed, but he has yet to have the big blow up breakout game.
Also back is Korvic Neat, a 5-9, 164-pound speedster who was the team's main punt returner while catching 25 passes for 257 yards in a backup role. However, he did most of his work at the begging of the year, but his playing time could be almost non-existent if superstar recruit Laquon Treadwell plays up to his capabilities. The 6-3, 190-pound five-star prospect out of Illinois caught 156 passes and scored 34 times over the last two years. Big, physical and talented, he has No. 1 SEC receiver all over him.
As good as the receiving corps is expected to be, that's how iffy the tight end situation is after losing Jamal Mosley and H.R. Greer. 6-1, 232-pound senior Justin Bigham is the only returning tight end with any time, but he didn't catch a pass last season. On the way is Christian Morgan, a 6-4, 255-pounder from Texas who's a blaster of a blocker with nice hands and skills, while Evan Engram and A.J. Jackson are more like receivers at tight end.
Watch Out For … Quadarias Mireles. In a normal year and a normal Ole Miss recruiting class, the JUCO transfer would've been hailed as a the crown jewel for the passing attack. This year, he's just another good prospect, but the 5-11, 185-pounder has the skill and upside to be a terror as both a return man and a receiver.
Strength: Experience. Everyone of note is back with all of the wide receivers returning. To go along with the veterans come a slew of talented recruits including Treadwell, Mireles and Quincy Adeboyejo.
Weakness: Scorers other than Moncrief against the SEC. The strong finishing kick from Moncrief aside, the Ole Miss receivers were shut down, for the most part, by SEC defenses. There's talent, speed and skill across the board, but everyone has to make the quarterback better against the stronger defenses.
Outlook: Last season it was all about upside, and even though all the top receivers are back, it's even more about the future than ever with all the talent coming in. In the meantime, Moncrief is one of the SEC's best targets and Logan and Sanders are terrific running mates. The entire group will stretch the field.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Four starters return to the line with 6-5, 330-pound left guard Aaron Morris the best of the bunch. The blasting run blocker is a mountain on the inside coming up with a consistent year as the starter for every game. A starter since his true freshman campaign, the one-time big recruit has grown into exactly the type of anchor the team needs to work around.
The spotlight will be on senior Emmanuel McCray at left tackle after a spotty season in pass protection. At 6-5 and 316 pounds he has excellent size and can erase defenders as a run blocker, but he doesn't have the quickest feet and iffy knees that gave him problems in the past. However, he's a great talent who can be the anchor of a veteran line if he can be just a bit better against the speed rushers.
Even with all the experience returning, all of the attention and focus will be on the new guy, Laremy Tunsil, the nation's top offensive tackle recruit with NFL 6-6, 320-pound size, terrific athleticism and a world of talent and upside. He might not be ready right away, but he's the most talented blocker on the roster with special skills. Also in the epic recruiting class was 6-6, 290-pound Austin Golson, who might not be Tunsil, but he's going to be a starting tackle sooner than later with NFL upside and ability.
The only open spot up front is at right guard where A.J. Hawkins is gone. 6-3, 314-poind senior Patrick Junen was the main backup last season and will get a long look, but massive 6-7, 354-pound Jared Duke could move over from the left side to the right. 6-4, 295-pound senior Evan Swindall is back anchoring the line at center with good quickness and versatility, while 6-6, 289-pound senior Pierce Burton is back at right tackle. Burton started his career at San Jose State, moved to College of San Francisco, and now has found a home on the outside where he has been fine, but has to be better in pass protection.
Watch Out For … Davion Johnson. Tunsil and Golson will eventually be stars at tackle, but don't overlook Johnson from the 2013 recruiting class. The 6-4, 315-pound guard could find his way into the lineup faster than the superstar tackles with the right size and strength to possibly step in at right guard right away.
Strength: Experience. All of the focus will be on the new guys, but the Rebels welcome back four starters from a line that turned into a positive, especially against the run. If you're going to lose a starter, right guard is the position to fill.
Weakness: Pass protection. Quarterback Bo Wallace held on to the ball a bit too much and was caught trying to run a bit too much, but the line didn't do its part in pass protection giving up 34 sacks on the season. The veteran tackles have to be better against the SEC speed rushers.
Outlook: The Rebels have a nearly perfect mix of great veterans and talented newcomers. Tunsil, Golson and Johnson might be the team's best offensive linemen, but they might not be needed for a while. They'll get time to get their feet wet, but the returning starters need to get the job done in pass protection and be more consistent for the ground game.
Unit Rating: 7
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