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2009 Ole Miss Preview - Offense
Ole Miss WR Dexter McCluster
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Ole Miss Rebel Offense
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What you need to know:
Everyone was wondering if Houston
Nutt would bring in his pure-running offense that helped make
superstars out of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. While the
ground game was great, the big surprise was a passing game that
became special with the emergence of Jevan Snead and a very fast
group of receivers who did a great job of stretching the field.
The receivers and backs are deep and talented, and they'll be
even better if Snead gets time to work. As good as the offense
was last year, finishing third in the SEC in offense and passing
efficiency, fourth in passing and second in rushing, helped in a
big part by the fantastic line. The line has to do some major
patching and won't be anywhere near as good as it was last year,
but the talent and experience should help make up for it.
Passing: Jevan Snead
184-327, 2,762 yds, 26 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: Dexter McCluster
109 carries, 655 yds
Receiving: Shay Hodge
44 catches, 655 yds, 6 TD
Star of the offense:
Senior WR Dexter McCluster
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore OT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Brandon Bolden
Best pro prospect: Senior OT John Jerry
Top three all-star candidates: 1) McCluster, 2) QB Jevan
Snead, 3) Jerry
Strength of the offense: Receiver speed, Running back
Weakness of the offense: Line experience, Quarterback
Junior Jevan Snead
originally went to Texas as a superstar recruit to replace Vince
Young. After Colt McCoy took the job and ran with it, Snead
bolted for Ole Miss, waiting his transfer time, and came out
roaring with 26 touchdown passes and 2,762 yards passing,
completing 56% of his throws, while running for 87 yards and
three scores. Mobile and good in the pocket, he can do it all,
and at 6-3 and 215 pounds, he has just enough size to make the
pro scouts sit up and take notice. While he threw 13
interceptions, six of them came in an early two-game span
against Samford and Vanderbilt. For the most part, he was calm,
cool, and steady throughout the year, spreading out his seven
other picks in seven games, and he finished up with a flourish.
Now that he knows what he's doing, he's expected to be the star
and the leader of the loaded team.
Projected Top Reserves: At 6-4 and 230 pounds,
senior Billy Tapp is a big bomber with a live
arm and a nice deep touch. He saw a little bit of action in five
games completing 3-of-5 passes for 34 yards, and he ran for 19
yards. He's a very smart, experienced backup who'll be in a
fight for the No. 2 job all season long, and if desperately
needed, he has the size and athleticism to move to tight end
where he was put at a few years ago to test out.
Redshirt freshman Nathan Stanley is a 6-5,
200-pound prospect out of Oklahoma with a live arm and good
upside. He was strong enough in spring ball to earn a co-No. 2
spot with Tapp on the depth chart, but considering he has four
years ahead of him, he might end up getting the call in blowouts
to prepare him for down the line. While he's not a runner, he's
not a statue, either.
Watch Out For ... Snead to become more of a vocal
leader. While he came in and was solid right away, it took the
full year for Snead to truly make the offense his. Now he has a
better command of the huddle and the attack, and there's no
question who the main man is.
Strength: Live arms. Snead is already on the NFL map,
but Tapp might have the better gun. Stanley get throw, too. For
a program that had so many problems finding a consistent passer
after Eli Manning left, there's an abundance of riches when it
comes to arms.
Weakness: Backups. Tapp has a little bit of experience
and Stanley is promising, but the dream season is over if Snead
goes down. Considering Snead's a tough guy who doesn't go down
easily, and how he'll take plenty of shots, the coaching staff
has to make sure The Franchise doesn't take any unnecessary
Outlook: Snead is the real deal and a playmaker
the offense desperately needed, and now he needs to do more. He
had a good, clutch season, but if he's going to be a next-level
caliber star, he needs to show he can keep the interceptions to
a minimum and start to produce even more wins when the spotlight
is on. Getting Tapp and Stanley meaningful work is a desperate
Sophomore Brandon Bolden saw significant time as a true freshman getting steady work
throughout the year. The 511, 220-pounder ran for 542 yards and
five touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards per carry, and caught ten
passes for 107 yards and a score, and now he could be the No. 1
back after a fantastic spring. While he scored a touchdown in
each of the last three games, highlighted by a 101-yard day in
the Cotton Bowl, his best performance might have been against
Florida, when he ran for 55 yards on 13 carries. After slimming
down a bit, he has more pop and more explosiveness through the
Houston Nutt offenses have never been shy about using the
fullback, and after a good spring, 5-10, 243-pound senior
Andy Hartmann appears ready to get more work.
He didn't get any carries and only caught two passes for 11
yards, but he's a good blocker and he's tough. Now he has to
become a better receiver to get the ball more.
Projected Top Reserves:
While Bolden might be the No. 1
coming out of spring ball, senior Cordera Eason
is No. 1A. A productive plugger throughout his career, he was
second on the team 646 yards and three touchdowns, and ten
catches for 82 yards and two scores, as the 12-game starter. At
5-10 and 224 pounds, he's a pounder with a decent burst and
decent breakaway speed. While he's not a workhorse, he can get
hot for stretches evidenced by back-to-back 100-yard days in
November against Auburn and UL Monroe.
6-0, 220-pound sophomore Enrique Davis was a
superstar recruit who originally signed with Auburn, couldn't
get in academically, and moved on to Ole Miss. He has all the
potential to be the next great back under head coach Houston
Nutt, but the light hasn't gone on yet. He was fine in his first
season rushing for 244 yards and three touchdowns, but he didn't
quite see the holes well enough and he seemed to be a step off
despite always running hard. He'll be better, a lot better, with
a little bit more time.
Sophomore Devin Thomas
didn't do much last year, rushing for just 34 yards, but the
5-10, 200-pounder did enough this spring to show that he could
turn into a nice part of the rotation. An ankle injury suffered
in high school kept him in check, but now he appears to be 100%
and he should be a speedster who makes things happen.
5-10, 224-pound junior Derrick Davis was a big-time
tailback prospect coming out of high school, even though he
missed his senior year with knee injury, but he has yet to make
too much happen. He ran for 98 yards and caught two passes for
two touchdowns, and now, after adding some weight, he'll work
more at fullback and be used in a variety of ways.
Watch Out For
... a running back by rotation situation. Bolden might have been
the star coming out of spring ball, but with several good
options, there won't be a workhorse in the attack with the load
being spread out.
Strength: Dexter McCluster. As if having a deep stable of backs
wasn't enough of a luxury, there's McCluster, the team's leading
rusher last year from the Wild Rebel formation, to be the focal
point when needed. All the backs will get time here and there,
and none of them have to necessarily hit the home run with a
playmaker like McCluster to count on.
Weakness: Fullback. Hartmann is fine, but nothing
special, while Davis is a big tailback and not an elite blocker.
The offense can get by without a top fullback, but it would be
nice to have a big hitter to pave the way, and more importantly,
to catch passes as a safety valve.
Outlook: There are no less than five decent
running back options, and McCluster, to choose from. The running
game will go with the hot hand on a game by game basis, but it's
Bolden who has the makings of a breakout star. Davis is a
big-time talent with the ability to be a major factor, but he'll
just be a part of fun. This is a deep group with the whole worth
more than the sum of the parts.
He might only be 5-8 and 165 pounds, but senior Dexter
McCluster is strong enough to carry the offense for
stretches. Not only did he tie for the team-lead in receptions,
catching 44 passes for 625 yards and a touchdown, but he was the
leading rusher working out of the Wild Rebel formation, netting
655 yards and six scores. Extremely quick and hard to find
because of his size, he's great at darting in and out of
blockers and making big things happen. Texas Tech is still
looking for him, after he ran for 97 yards and a score and
caught six passes for 83 yards, but he didn't have a monster,
signature game. Very steady and very consistent, he needs to
stay healthy, considering he had problems with a shoulder injury
early in his career. As long as he's on the field, he'll be a
big-time weapon who'll get the attention of every defense.
While McCluster might be the star, senior Shay Hodge
is the leading receiver with 725 yards and eight scores,
averaging 16.5 yards per catch, on 44 grabs. The 6-1,
207-pounder has good size, is physical, and has tremendous
hands. While he's steady, sure to make 3-to-5 catches per game,
his highlight was the three-grab, 133-yard day against Florida
with a devastating 86-yard touchdown catch. He might not always
be spectacular, but he's steady.
6-5, 250-pound senior
Gerald Harris didn't exactly set the world on
fire, catching seven passes for 84 yards and four scores, but he
came up big with two touchdown catches on two plays in the
Cotton Bowl against Texas Tech. The former JUCO transfer will be
the top tight end option and will do more as a receiver, but
he's also a good blocker who'll do big things for the running
game. He's been strong this spring and appears ready to handle
more work his way.
Projected Top Reserves: Working at split end when
McCluster works in other spots will be Lionel Breaux,
a 6-0, 191-pound junior with elite speed and the ability to
"blow the top off the coverage," as the Ole Miss coaches want to
do. He only caught 12 passes for 178 yards, but with his
experience and his wheels, he needs to be used a lot more in
several different receiver spots. How fast is he? He was a
Louisiana state high school champion sprinter.
197-pound junior Markeith Summers only caught
five passes for 94 yards, but he averaged 18.8 yards per catch.
He got the starting call against Arkansas and UL Monroe, and
while he saw plenty of action, he wasn't part of the regular
passing game. Fast enough to be used on the outside, and tough
enough to go across the middle, he could line up in several
Brining more size to the equation is
Melvin Harris, a 6-6, 185-pound redshirt freshman who
can shove defensive backs aside without a problem. Still raw,
he's a big athlete who's still learning how to use his size
effectively, but he could be a breakout player if he can prove
he can make things happen in single coverage.
On the way
is Patrick Patterson, a 6-3, 215-pound
ready-made No. 1 target and one of the team's top recruits. Very
big, very fast, and very talented, he's being expected to be a
part of a the veteran receiving corps as soon as he steps off
the bus after catching 145 passes and 37 touchdowns over his
last two years.
While Gerald Harris is the top tight end,
the combination of redshirt freshmen Ferbia Allen and E.J. Epperson
could end up doing more. Epperson was limited this offseason
with a dislocated wrist, but the 6-3, 230-pounder is a good
all-around prospect. The 6-4, 225-pound Allen is a tremendous
athlete who isn't going to be much of a blocker. Early on, the
two will rotate depending on the situation.
Watch Out For ... Summers.
The classic looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane receiver, he has
all-everything skills and potential, but he needs to keep his
focus and he has to be far more consistent. If he can put it all
together, he'll replace Mike Wallace and be the team's most used
Strength: Wheels. Everyone can run, and Breaux can
really run, so stretching the field shouldn't be a problem. The
Rebels averaged 15.1 yards per catch and should do that again,
if not crank out more big plays, with Jevan Snead growing more
into the job.
Weakness: Mike Wallace. This is a versatile receiving
corps with several players moving around where needed, and while
everyone can get deep, losing Wallace, who averaged 20.1 yards
per catch with seven touchdowns, will hurt.
Outlook: The loss of Wallace will hurt, but
there's more than enough speed, experience, and talent to come
up with a ton of big plays. The versatile group will have
several players moving around where needed, and Jevan Snead will
help make everyone better. Getting more out of the tight ends
would be nice, but the passing game is all about hitting the
home run. This group will do it.
All eyes will be on 6-7, 310-pound sophomore
Bradley Sowell, the understudy at left tackle behind
Michael Oher last year. Now Sowell has to take over for the Baltimore
Raven and try to live up to the talent. He saw time in every
game being used as a tackle and as a huge tight end in jumbo
packages, even catching a one-yard touchdown pass. He's a good
athlete with the size and the frame to be a good pass protector.
Back in his starting spot at right tackle is
John Jerry, who started most of the 2007 season at
guard and was a rock on the outside last season, starting every
game. At 6-5 and 350 pounds, he's a little too big to be a
steady pass protector with too much bulk, but he was
surprisingly good against speed rushers. With three years of
starting experience under his belt, he's a solid, reliable
all-around blocker who'll earn All-SEC honors.
one returning starter; senior Daverin Geralds
is the other. He came to Ole Miss as an offensive lineman, was
moved to the defensive line for a stretch, and came back to the
offensive side where he worked out at guard before becoming a
starting center. At 6-2 and 312 pounds, he's very big and very
strong on the interior.
Ready to take on the full-time
job at left guard is Reid Neely, a 6-6,
310-pound senior who stepped in late last year and started five
games when Darryl Harris was out. A reliable all-around blocker,
he has the size and the talent to pound away on a regular basis.
Considering how raw he was when he first hit the line, he's far
more polished and will be good with more work.
over for Maurice Miller at right guard is Rishaw Johnson.
On a huge line with plenty of 300+ pound behemoths, Johnson, a
6-4, 295-pound sophomore, is a relative lightweight. He saw a
little bit of time last year, playing in five games, and now,
with his athleticism and strength, he should be a fixture up
front for the next three years.
Projected Top Reserves: Able to play guard or
tackle, 6-4, 337-pound sophomore Alex Washington
could become a key blocker for the left side. He's
better suited for the inside, but he worked mostly at left
tackle this offseason where he'll start out behind Bradley
Sowell. A smart, promising blocker, he needs time to show he can
handle a good pass rusher. However, he has held his own in
practices against the great Rebel D linemen.
tempting to get super-recruit Bobby Massie on
the field right away. The 6-7, 345-pound true freshman was one
of the nation's top tackle prospects, and Ole Miss plucked him
out of Virginia where he was courted by all the heavy-hitters.
Very athletic for his size, he can play anywhere on the line and
should grow into a starting job at tackle sooner than later.
One of the team's most versatile linemen, senior Brandon Green
can play anywhere on the line and will start out behind
Reid Neely at left guard. The 6-2, 300-pound senior was a top
JUCO player who mostly worked on special teams in his first
season, but he's big and he should be tough when needed for the
The team needed instant depth for the line,
and it got it in Logan Clair, a ready-made
guard who comes in from Northeastern Oklahoma CC and should be a
factor in several spots. He's a guard, but he'll work behind
John Jerry at right tackle
Watch Out For ... Sowell. As great as Oher was, he
wasn't quite as good as the hype, Sowell won't be Oher at left
tackle right away, but with his size and upside, he might turn
out to be a more-than-adequate replacement.
Strength: Size. The line is massive with the two-deep
averaging around 320 pounds. There's only one player under 300,
295-pound guard Rishaw Johnson. Blasting away for the ground
game won't be a problem.
Weakness: Experience. Forget about depth; the Ole Miss
front five needs to secure the starting spots. Things aren't
that bad despite losing three starters, including Oher, but if
the team doesn't have the great season everyone is hoping for,
the inexperience line could be the cause.
Outlook: The great recruiting classes paid off
with a whale of a season from the O line. The Rebels allowed
just 20 sacks and blasted away for the running game. This year's
line isn't nearly as talented, and depth is a major problem, but
its very big, is solid on the outside, and should be decent with
a little bit of time to work. However, this is the offense's
biggest weakness by far going into the summer.