Mississippi Preview 2006

Posted Aug 8, 2006

Ole Miss Rebels Preview 2006

- Ole Miss Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. And hope they can play.

Ole Miss has undergone a bit of a facelift after an unsuccessful opening act in the Ed Orgeron era going 3-8 with only two wins over D-I teams beating Memphis and Kentucky by a total of eight points. Worse yet, the team got worse as the season finished up with one of the nation's worst offenses.

Orgeron isn't exactly the type of coach who's going to wait around for things to get better. A tireless recruiter, he was able to get a major infusion of talent for the offense landing former Tennessee quarterback Brent Schaeffer, former Indiana running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and former Miami offensive coordinator
Dan Werner and offensive line coach Art Kehoe. Ole Miss also has on the roster wide receiver Burnell Wallace, who originally signed with Oregon State, and defensive tackle Hayward Howard, who originally signed with Michigan State.

Will it all be enough to make Ole Miss good enough to come up with its first winning season in three years? Probably not, but Orgeron has done a great job of upgrading the overall talent level and has several good pieces in place to put together a far more competitive team.

Head coach: Ed Orgeron
2nd year: 3-8
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 15, Def. 18, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 25
Ten Best Ole Miss Players
1. LB Patrick Willis, Sr.
2. OT Michael Oher, Soph.
3. QB Brent Schaeffer, Jr.
4. SS Jamarca Sanford, Soph.
5. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Jr.
6. CB Trumaine McBride, Sr.
7. RB Mico McSwain, Soph.
8. DE Peria Jerry, Soph.
9. LB Garry Pack, Jr.
10. DT Brandon Jenkins, Jr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 Memphis
9/9 at Missouri
9/16 at Kentucky
9/23 Wake Forest
9/30 Georgia
10/7 Vanderbilt
10/14 at Alabama
10/21 at Arkansas
10/28 Auburn
11/4 Northwestern State
11/18 at LSU
11/25 Mississippi State

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record: 3-8

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/5 at Memphis W 10-6
9/17 at Vanderbilt L 31-23
9/24 Wyoming L 24-14
10/1 at Tennessee L 27-10
10/8 The Citadel W 27-7
10/15 Alabama L 13-10
10/22 Kentucky W 13-7
10/29 at Auburn L 27-3
11/12 Arkansas L 28-17
11/19 LSU L 40-7
11/26 at Miss State L 35-14

With Schaeffer and Green-Ellis in the backfield along with last season's leading rusher, Mico McSwain, the running game will get off the team bus and average more than the 73 rushing yards a game it came up with last season. The offensive line that was so miserable last season will be stronger with more experience led by NFL caliber tackle Michael Oher.

Defensively, the return of linebacker Patrick Willis gives Ole Miss and All-America star to work around. The pass defense finished 14th in the nation last season and gets three starters back along with rising corner Nate Banks. The line has to replace all four starters, but the new faces up front have more talent.

Of course, you don't go 3-8 without having several problems to deal with and holes to fill. Ole Miss still plays in the SEC and isn't within ten miles of the top teams talent-wise. The skill players, while better than last year's group, aren't anywhere near as good as the ones at places like LSU, Georgia, Auburn and Florida. There's absolutely no returning experience at receiver and the overall depth is a bit thin.

It's going to take a little while before the program is close to the hunt for division titles, so patience must be a virtue for at least another year. Coach O will build from the lines up and has the luxury of being able to truly promise any new recruit a chance to start right away. For this year, expect more fight.

The Schedule: The non-conference schedule isn't all that bad outside of a road trip to Missouri. The Rebels have to go 3-0 Memphis, Wake Forest and Northwestern State if they have any dreams of going to a bowl, and they must take advantage of the nice SEC break playing Kentucky and Vanderbilt from the East. Forget about any dreams of being the sleeper team in the West with road games at Alabama, Arkansas and LSU, but there's still a solid chance at a winning season going into the Egg Bowl finale against Mississippi State if everything breaks right.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore OT Michael Oher. The 6-6, 330-pound left tackle has next-level written all over him. He was one of the big recruits in Orgeron's first season and wasn't awful starting from the second game on in his true freshman season at right guard. Now he'll move over to left tackle where he should be a possible early round NFL Draft pick with Art Kehoe coaching him.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Patrick Willis. Orgeron, a former coach at USC, said before last season that Willis could've been a star on any of the recent Trojan teams. Willis is just now starting to get more recognition from everyone other than CFN making most preseason All-America teams, and he should be one of the favorites for all the big defensive awards if he leads the nation in solo tackles like he did last year.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Brent Schaeffer. He saw enough time as a freshman at Tennessee to be prepared for life in the SEC, and he got enough work last season at the College of the Sequoias to be ready to hit the ground running when he shows up this fall. Already anointed the starter, Ole Miss can't go through another year of musical quarterbacks if it wanted to average more than 13.45 points per game.

The season will be a success if ... the Rebels win seven games. It'll take at least one big upset and no slip ups against the teams its own size, but Ole Miss should be just good enough to be able to squeak out a few more wins with a schedule that has Memphis, at Kentucky, Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, Northwestern State, and Mississippi State.

Key game: Sept, 16 at Kentucky. The Rebels beat the Wildcats 13-7 for their final win of the year, and could use the shot in the arm of pulling off a road win in the SEC opener. To get to a bowl game, this might be a must-win considering it'll take a major upset to beat teams like Georgia, Auburn and LSU.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Kickoff returns: Opponents 16.5 yards per return - Ole Miss 15.4 yards per return
- Third down conversions: Opponents 74 of 168 (44%) - Ole Miss 53 of 166 (32%)
- Yards per carry: Opponents 3.7 - Ole Miss 2.4

The Last Time Ole Miss…
…played in a bowl game…2003 (Cotton Bowl vs. Oklahoma State)
…missed a bowl game…2005
…pitched a shutout…2003 (Mississippi State)
…was shutout…1998 (Arkansas)
…scored 50 points…2003 (Arkansas State)   
…went undefeated…1962
…won a conference title…1963 (SEC)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2003 (Eli Manning)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…1998 (Deuce McAllister)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…never
…had a first-round draft choice…2005 (C Chris Spencer)

Related Stories
Mississippi Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006
Mississippi Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006
Mississippi Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006

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