2007 Ole Miss Preview - Offense

Posted Jul 30, 2007

Preview 2007 Ole Miss Rebel Offense

Ole Miss Rebels

Preview 2007 - Offense

- 2007 Ole Miss Preview | 2007 Ole Miss Defense Preview
2007 Ole Miss Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Ole Miss Preview 

What you need to know: The offense needed more out of the running game after a woeful 2005, and it got it with BenJarvus Green-Ellis coming up with a 1,000-yard season as the workhorse for the offense. Now the offense has to figure out how to score after averaging 15.7 points per game (up from a whopping 13.45 per game in 2005). The passing game needs a lot of work, and the hope will be for the young receiving corps to step up and become passable. There will be a quarterback battle into the fall with Brent Schaeffer needing to prove he can move the offense, or he'll be unseated be Seth Adams, who's the more efficient passer. The massive line should be better after years of seasoning.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Brent Schaeffer
115-244, 1,442 yds, 9 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: BenJarvus Green-Ellis
234 carries, 1,000 yds, 7 TD
Receiving: Mike Wallace
24catches, 410 yds, 2 TD

Star of the offense: Junior OT Michael Oher
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior QB Seth Adams
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Cordera Eason
Best pro prospect: Oher
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Oher, 2) RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 3) OG John Jerry
Strength of the offense: Running back, offensive line size
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback, passing game


Projected Starter: While the quarterback situation is up for grabs, and could be a rotation throughout the year, the coaching staff leaned a little bit towards senior Seth Adams coming out of spring ball. While he doesn't have much in the way of mobility, the former JUCO transfer walked-on to the team last year, and showed off a decent arm completing 55% of his passes for 177 yards. He's 6-4, 225 pounds, and has good enough skills to get the Ole Miss passing game going. Finally.

Projected Top Reserves: Adams might turn out to be the number one, but that doesn't mean senior Brent Schaeffer will be out of the mix. The top transfer from Tennessee started from day one last year, and while he had his moments, he struggled to throw the forward pass completing just 47% of his passes for 1,442 yards and nine touchdowns with ten interceptions. While he's a great runner, he didn't use his mobility nearly enough with just 100 yards and one touchdown. He wasn't any more consistent in spring ball and needs to light it up this fall to get any of the coaching staff's confidence. If he's not running, he's not much help.

The third man in the mix will be redshirt freshman Michael Herrick, a plucky all-around playmaker who might not be all that big at 6-1 and 170 pounds, but he has a good arm and can move. He won't win the starting job, but it won't be a shock if he turns out to be the number two man on the depth chart at some point this season, possibly in shotgun formations.

Watch Out For ... the quarterback situation to not be settled at any point this year. Adams is an average talent, Schaeffer will never be a solid passer, and Herrick doesn't have any experience. All three will probably see time.
Options. Adams can throw, Schaeffer can move, and Herrick is a baller who can do a little of everything. If you could combine all three players into one quarterback, you'd have a star.
The team's best quarterback can't play this year. Texas transfer Jevan Snead has all the tools the team needs, but he has to sit out a season. He's the future.
Outlook: The Rebels have work to do to find a quarterback who can save the SEC's worst passing game. The starter doesn't have to be Peyton Manning, or even Eli, but he'll have to be efficient, complete close to 60% of the passes, and keep the interceptions to a minimum. That's far easier said than done for this group. going to be another Hawaii, and it doesn't have to be.
Rating: 6

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Brent Schaeffer might have been a disappointment, but the team's other high-profile transfer, Indiana back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, ran for 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns as the team's main offensive weapon. While he's not a "wow" back, he can carry the ball 20+ times and can crank out 100 yards if everything is working. At 5-11 and 225 yards, he's a tough runner with a quick burst when he gets an opening.

At fullback, 240-pound Jason Cook is expected to do more for the offense after getting only two carries and three catches. Showing no ill-effects from a broken arm that cost him most of 2005, he became a good blocker. Now he'll get more work in the passing game.

Projected Top Reserves: Green-Ellis is the unquestioned number one, and now there has to be more help from the reserves. Senior Bruce Hall finished second on the team with just 182 yards and a touchdowns, but he averaged 5.7 yards per carry.
The JUCO transfer by way of Wake Forest and Troy came to Ole Miss as a quarterback and showed he could be productive in garbage time. Now he has to do more in meaningful games.

The starting tailback next year will likely be 235-pound sophomore Cordera Eason after good spring. A pounding back who has more overall speed and ability than Green-Ellis, it'll be just a question of time before he takes over the number two spot. He's not being considered for the starting job, but that doesn't mean he can't play a big role.

Backing up Cook at fullback is 230-pound sophomore Andy Hartmann and redshirt freshmen Derrick Davis and Reggie Hicks. While Hartmann will be the number two blocker, Hicks is the most versatile option able to catch the ball and run better than the other options.

Watch Out For ... Eason. Green-Ellis fits the cliché of a back who gets better as the game goes on, but he'll be even more effective if Eason turns into the back he's supposed to be. Getting the sophomore star-in-waiting 7 to 11 carries a game would be a huge boost for the offense.
Power. Having a 225-pound back in Green-Ellis and a 235-pound runner in Eason should allow the Rebels to push the ball between the tackles whenever they want to.
Receiving. Don't expect the backs to do much in the passing game. Green-Ellis caught just eight passes last year, and despite an attempt to spread the ball around even more, the running backs will be used to run.
Outlook: It all depends on the emergence of the passing game and the improvements on the offensive line. If defenses have to give just two seconds worth of thought to the passing attack, the safeties won't be able to cheat up and Green-Ellis will have more room. He's a talented back who's never had any help at Indiana or Ole Miss. He's a 250-carry caliber back, but he won't need to be with the expected emergence of the reserves.
Rating: 7.5


Projected Starters: Is Mike Wallace able to be a number one receiver? He led the team with 24 catches for 410 yards and two touchdowns averaging 17.1 yards per catch, but the junior might get pushed out of a starting spot if he doesn't start producing even more. Even with his high average, he wasn't spectacular enough and didn't show he could be a pure number one target. He had a decent spring game catching five passes.

On the other side will likely be sophomore Dexter McCluster after making 15 catches for 232 yards and a touchdown in just a half a season. Banged up throughout the final six games with a shoulder problem, among other things, he'll have to prove he can hold up. At 5-9 and 165 pounds, that might be a problem.

The Rebels need more out of their tight ends, and that includes 6-3, 240-pound senior Robert Lane, a former quarterback and fullback who has 286 career rushing yards and three touchdowns, one touchdown pass (completing just 44% of his throws), and 28 catches for 368 yards. He has too much experience not to be a steady short-range receiver.

Projected Top Reserves: Former running back Mico McSwain, who ran for 140 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 19 yards, will be a key receiver once he gets back after spending the off-season working on his studies. He's a phenomenal athlete with excellent speed, and now he has to get the ball in his hands more.

Sophomore Shay Hodge had a decent first season finishing third on the team with 16 catches for 193 yards averaging 12.1 yards per grab. While he might never be a spectacular receiver, he's the type of tough target who has the potential to be the consistent receiver the passing game desperately needs.

Is Marshay Green ready to live up to his potential? Originally considered a running back, the 5-10, 170-pound sophomore finished second on the team with 19 catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns. He's still extremely raw, but he's phenomenally quick and could turn into a major playmaker once the light goes on.

On the way to beef up the corps is top JUCO transfer
A.J. Jackson, a 6-5, 210-pound speed receiver who was Brent Schaeffer's favorite target two years ago. Considered by many to be the nation's top JUCO wide receiver, he might find a starting spot right away this fall.

At tight end, Lane is the number one, but senior Robert Hough is a decent receiver who'll see time in two tight end sets. He caught eight passes for 69 yards and a touchdown, and while he has good size at 6-4 and 230 pounds, and nice hands, he's not much of a blocker. That's for 6-6, 260-pound junior David Traxler, who moves over from the offensive line to provide some sort of blocking element to the mix.

Watch Out For ... someone to emerge as a star to build around. The problem? There's no clue who that'll be. Even after a year of work, this is still a raw group that could be far better as the season goes on.
Veterans. Of the 134 catches made last year, 130 were made by returning players. There are enough options and overall depth to find a few targets to improve the sorry passing attack.
Catching the football. When your number one receiver catches 24 passes for 410 yards and two touchdowns, there's a problem. Finding consistent receivers who can find the seams and get open is a must, but scoring will be more important after just nine touchdown receptions.
Outlook: Were the receivers really that bad or was the lack of overall production because of the awful quarterback play? Both. This was a young corps that doesn't have any seniors and still needs time to figure out what they're doing. There are enough veterans to expect more production, but a true number one target has to emerge and there has to be more scoring pop.
Rating: 6

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: 6-5, 325-pound junior left tackle Michael Oher is about to take the turn into superstardom. A tremendous athlete and a big-time recruit two years ago, he started from day one. While he's been inconsistent, especially in pass protection, he has NFL talent and the potential to be the type of blocker the offense works around.

Including Oher, four starters are back on the line with the only open starting spot at left guard. 6-6, 300-pound sophomore Reid Neely will get the first look after seeing a little time as a reserve and on special teams. He's still green, but he made a quantum leap from where he was at last year. He'll benefit greatly from being next to Oher.

The right side is set with the return of 6-5, 360-pound sophomore John Jerry at guard and 6-3, 350-pound junior Maurice Miller at tackle. Neither can protect the passer, but they're physical for the running game. Jerry had a nice spring and should emerge as a consistent blocker, while Miller is a former guard who has to work on his overall conditioning.

Returning at center is 6-5, 290-pound senior Corey Actis, a good athlete who can play at guard if needed. The former JUCO transfer grew into the role in the middle of the line and should be a good quarterback now that he knows what he's doing.

Projected Top Reserves: Jerry is a good-looking young blocker, but he'll have to fight off JUCO transfer Mark Jean-Louis, a 6-3, 350-pound mauler who should be back to form after suffering a bad knee injury two years ago.

Pushing Neely for time will be 6-4, 300-pound senior Darryl Harris. A former starting center who was tried out at tackle and now will spend most of his time at guard. He's a decent athlete with enough experience to be a major help off the bench.

6-2, 300-pound senior Thomas Eckers appeared ready to be a starter going into last year, but he lost the job in fall practice and served as a backup behind Actis. He's a decent run blocker and can play guard if needed.

Watch Out For ... the light to go on. After building and building for the last few years, this has to be the season the line becomes the dominant force the coaching staff envisioned it could be.
Size. This group is HUGE. Maybe too huge. The projected starting five averages around 325 pounds per man and could come up with a big season for the ground game.
Athleticism. The line is so big that coming up with consistent pass protection against speedy SEC defenders could be a problem. Even with a mobile quarterback like Brent Schaeffer under center last year, the Rebels allowed 29 sacks. Expect more of the same.
Outlook: Time for all those great recruiting classes to start kicking in. Art Kehoe, the architect of the great Miami lines, has excellent prospects to work with, and he should do a great job. Oher has the next-level talent to be the anchor, while there are enough veterans to hope for more consistency, more production in pass protection, and even more done for the running game. The right combination needs to be found, and that's been the problem for the last few years, but the talent is there to be better.
Rating: 7


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