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Three & Out returns to give you a periodic look at what's going on this spring in the SEC. In today's edition, we take a look at the Ole Miss offense, a new coach in Lexington and very intriguing out-of-conference possibility.
IN SEARCH OF A SPARK
This time last year, all the talk swirled around the Ole Miss Rebels. They were riding a six-game winning streak, had Heisman hopeful Jevan Snead at quarterback, the electric Dexter McCluster in the backfield and were the chic pick to win the SEC West.
My, how things have changed.
McCluster is gone. Snead left early for the NFL (or CFL). Wide receiver Shay Hodge – who led the SEC in receptions in conference games – is gone too. So this begs the question, where are the Rebels going to find offense in 2010?
One option that is emerging this spring is wide receiver Jesse Grandy. At 5-foot-10 and 164 pounds, Grandy not only is similar in stature to McCluster, but he possesses similar breakaway speed.
The sophomore averaged 5.9 yards per carry in 2009, rushing for 100 yards on just 17 carries. While he showed flashes of brilliance on offense, he made his presence felt on special teams. He returned 29 kickoffs for 746 yards and two touchdowns, including an 88-yard dash on the opening kickoff vs. UAB.
Considering all the players that have left Oxford over the last few months, head coach Houston Nutt will be in search of any offensive spark he can find. Grandy may be that spark.
The Rebels are going to have low expectations and heavy competition in the SEC West. But a home run hitter like Grandy has the potential to change the game in a hurry.
Joker Phillips has spent the last two years as Kentucky's coach-in-waiting. That's a long time to wait. I guess it's only fitting that the the Wildcats will be the last SEC team to start spring practice when they open camp on Wednesday.
Phillips begins his first season as head coach with a pretty big question to answer...who's gonna play quarterback?
Mike Hartline was pre-season third-team All-SEC in 2009. The senior threw for 792 yards and six touchdowns last season, before injuring his knee in a 28-26 loss at South Carolina. He made a cameo five games later vs. Vanderbilt, but the knee injury effectively ended Hartline's season. Despite the injury-shortened season, Hartline has proven that he can play in the SEC. He completed 55 percent of his passes for 1,666 yards and nine touchdowns in 2008.
The other primary contender in the bluegrass quarterback battle is sophomore Morgan Newton. The high-touted recruit had planned on redshirting in 2009, but Hartline's injury forced him in to action early. The early appearance didn't phase Newton. He led Kentucky to a 5-3 record, which included wins at Auburn (in his first ever game) and at Georgia.
The dark horse in this battle is redshirt freshman Ryan Mossakowski. Mossakowski was a four-star recruit out of Centennial High School in Frisco, Texas. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder is the prototypical drop-back quarterback that, according to some, can make "all the throws."
It's likely a two-player race between Hartline and Newton, but Mossakowski will push them a bit. The good news for Kentucky fans is that all three are capable of getting them back to a bowl game for the fifth straight season, which would extend the school record for consecutive bowl appearances.
MAN...THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN AWESOME
A report surfaced Tuesday morning that Alabama agreed to open the 2012 season at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, against Texas Tech.
My immediate reaction? Ummm....yes please!
Alabama facing the Tommy Tuberville-led Red Raiders would be must-see television. After all, what's not to like? Alabama is back to national prominence. They'd be facing Tuberville, who pretty much owned them for the better part of a decade while at Auburn. And they'd be doing it in the $1.3 billion "Rolls Royce of football stadiums."
The Crimson Tide could play at Cowboys Stadium to open the 2012 season, but Texas Tech will not be the opponent.
Alabama is still in search of an out-of-conference opponent to play in 2012, and I hope they revisit the possibility of playing the Red Raiders. Man, that would be one heckuva way to start out the year.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee
2010 Spring Three & Out Archive
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 31, 2010
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 28, 2010
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 24, 2010
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 21, 2010
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 18, 2010
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 15, 2010
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 11, 2010
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 5, 2010
Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes – March 2, 2010
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