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2009 Ole Miss Preview - Offense
Ole Miss WR Dexter McCluster
Ole Miss WR Dexter McCluster
Posted May 19, 2009 2009 Preview - Ole Miss Rebel Offense

Ole Miss Rebels

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Ole Miss Preview | 2009 Ole Miss Offense
- 2009 Ole Miss Defense | 2009 Ole Miss Depth Chart
- 2008 Ole Miss Preview | 2007 Ole Miss Preview | 2006 Ole Miss Preview 

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.

Returning Leaders
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 Bradley Sowell
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 depth
Weakness of the offense: Line experience, Quarterback depth


Projected Starter: 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.
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.
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 hits.
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 need.

Running Backs

Projected Starters: 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 hole.

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.
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.
Rating: 7.5


Projected Starters: 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.

6-2, 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 spots.

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 deep threat.
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.
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.
Rating: 8

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: 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.

Jerry is 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.

Taking 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.

It'll be 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 running game.

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.
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.
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.
Rating: 7