2010 Ole Miss Preview - Offense
Ole Miss OT Bobby Massie
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Ole Miss Rebel Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Only three starters return, but there's enough speed, athleticism, and upside to hope for a more consistent year. The skill player losses might appear to be huge with QB Jevan Snead, RB Dexter McCluster, and WR Shay Hodge off doing bigger and better things, but the emergence of a better conditioned Brandon Bolden and a suddenly solid Enrique Davis should get the ground game moving, and there's too much breathtaking speed at receiver to not hit several home runs. QB Nathan Stanley is a huge, strong passer with excellent upside,
while Oregon transfer Jeremiah Masoli could be the SEC's best quarterback if he gets on the field right away. Call it a case of addition by subtraction losing the 20 picks and problems of Snead. It's a Houston Nutt offense, so there will be plenty of options to run the Wild Rebel, the ground game will be the bread-and-butter, and there will be times with everything clicks and the floodgates open up (like the Tennessee game of last year). The line is bookended by two terrific tackles (Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie), but the interior needs a little time to jell.
Star of the offense: Junior RB Brandon Bolden
Passing: Nathan Stanley
11-23, 163 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Brandon Bolden
129 carries, 614 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Brandon Bolden
20 catches, 209 yds, 1 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore QB Nathan Stanley
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Jesse Grandy
Best pro prospect: Sophomore OT Bobby Massie
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bolden, 2) Massie, 3) WR Jesse Grandy
Strength of the offense: Speedy WRs & RBs, Tackle
Weakness of the offense: Consistency, Line Interior
Projected Starter: The Rebels were going to be okay at quarterback, even with the ranks a bit thin, but they suddenly made the position a major plus with the addition of senior
Jeremiah Masoli, the troubled former Oregon Duck who was charged with burglary after stealing some laptops, and was later nailed for marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license. On the field, there's no question about his talent or his résumé completing 58% of his passes last year for 2,147 yards and 15 touchdowns and six interceptions while running for 668 yards and 13 scores. As a freshman, he threw for 1,744 yards and 13 touchdowns with five interceptions while running for 718 yards and ten scores. He's only 5-11, but he's a bullish 220 pounds with great running skills, a nice arm, and good leadership ability. However, he has struggled against some of the better teams completing just 4-of-16 passes in the win over Utah and 9-of-20 passes for 81 yards in the Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State.
Projected Top Reserves: Even if Jevan Snead had decided to come back for his final year, he wasn't a lock to get the starting job. Sophomore Nathan Stanley has the upside and the potential to be a star with 6-5, 215-pound size, decent mobility, and a live arm. He saw a little bit of time last season completing 48% of his throws for 163 yards and a touchdown with an interception, but he was far better in practices and looked like a No. 1 target this spring. He knows what he's doing, knows the playbook, and he should be more consistent than Snead even with a little bit of experience.
JUCO transfer Randall Mackey isn't coming to Ole Miss to sit on the bench. While the 6-0, 190-pounder isn't all that big compared to the other options, he's a tremendous talent with a good, accurate arm and good running ability. He might be the steadiest option of the three Ole Miss quarterback prospects, and he's a winner having taken is Louisiana high school team to three state titles.
Watch Out For … Stanley to be terrific and not just give the job over
to Masoli. He'll have the typical ups and downs that any new SEC starting quarterback would, but he'll also be a fearless bomber who won't make all the bad reads Snead did. Masoli will be great, but there might be a two QB system.
Strength: Passers. Forget that Stanley completed fewer than half of his passes last year in his limited time. He's a passer who isn't going to make a ton of careless mistakes, and he'll still push the ball down the field. Mackey can do a little of everything.
Weakness: Experience and the right fit. Mackey was great at the JUCO level and Stanley has seen enough time in the offense to be decent, but this Ole Miss plays in the SEC; the league chewed up a fantastic prospect in Snead and spat him out. There will be some rough patches, and there isn't a ton of veteran help among the skill players to pick up the slack. Masoli has the experience, but he has to quickly show that he fits into what Ole Miss wants to do.
Outlook: The passing game might have been the biggest disappointment last year. The yards were fine and Snead was good at times, but the 21 picks were a killer. Now it'll either be up to Stanley to prove he can be more of a caretaker for the attack or Masoli to be the same sort of star, but ball security will be a top priority.
Depth was a major issue with the sudden departure of
Raymond Cotton, who was in the hunt for the starting
gig going to South Alabama, but the addition of Masoli changed that.
Unit Rating: 8.5
Projected Starters: Ole Miss has a good group of backs to feed, but junior Brandon Bolden is the best of the bunch. The 5-11, 220-pounder finished second on the team with 614 yards and four touchdowns, but he did a lot of the dirty work early on as the coaching staff was saving Dexter McCluster for a rainy day. The star of the 2009 Cotton Bowl, with 101 yards and a score in the win over Texas Tech, Bolden was expected to grow into a more dangerous back last season but he only had one 100-yard game (Southeast Louisiana) and two of his four scores came in a blowout over Tennessee. Able to be used as a receiver, he finished third on the team with 20 catches for 209 yards and a score; he'll be a nice safety valve.
Projected Top Reserves: Yes, this is going to be the year when junior Enrique Davis shows what all the fuss was about … really. You've heard this before, but if the offseason was any indication, the light has gone on for the disappointing 6-0, 220-pound superstar recruit. Davis originally signed with Auburn but didn't go because of academic issues, and he was supposed to come in and blow up from Day One. Instead, he followed up a 244-yard season with 110 yards and two scores. He has too much speed and too much size to just be average.
Sophomore Rodney Scott is a tough runner for his 5-8, 195-pound size and he'll be used in a variety of ways. Extremely quick, he got a little bit of work running 35 times for 138 yards (second best on the team) with two touchdowns. He can get the ball as a receiver on a regular basis, even though he didn't make any catches last year, and he can run inside or out.
6-2, 250-pound sophomore E.J. Epperson appears ready to shine at fullback. The Ole Miss offense will used a lead back as more than just a blocker, and while he only came up with a lone kick return last year, he's good receiver and a physical player who should see some work as a short-yardage runner. Originally considered a tight end or possibly a linebacker prospect, he'll need some playing time to grow into the role.
At 5-11, 225 pounds, sophomore R.J. Greer is a smaller fullback option than E.J. Epperson, but he's physical for his size. A pure fullback, he's a decent athlete and great high school runner tearing off 1,840 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior. He ran for four yards last year and he'll be used in as a runner, a special teamer, and a blocker.
Watch Out For … Davis to finally be a player. It might have taken a few years, but if the junior really is as good as he looked this offseason, the Rebels have a star to keep feeding the ball to. He has gamebreaker talent that has yet to be unleashed.
Strength: Options. Bolden slimmed down and is quicker than last year, Davis showed flashes of stardom, and Scott is worthy of getting the ball in his hands at least ten times a game. The Rebels have the running backs to do what Nutt wants to.
Weakness: Dexter McCluster. He might have been kept on the shelf for a rainy day a bit too often, but he took over in the second half of the season and exploded with huge games against Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, and Arkansas before ripping up Oklahoma State for 184 yards in the Cotton Bowl. Ole Miss might have some good backs, but McCluster kept defensive coordinators up at night.
Outlook: The Rebels should explode even with McCluster now on the Kansas City Chiefs. Bolden, Davis, and Scott all looked terrific this offseason, and if they can play up to their potential and their hype, the ground game should be among the best in the SEC. However, they'll need the line to be solid and the passing attack has to be efficient to take the heat off.
Unit Rating: 8
Projected Starters: Is sophomore Jesse Grandy really ready to blow up? He's a rail-thin 5-10 and 165 pounds with tremendous speed and big play ability. He caught four passes for 43 yards and ran 17 times for 100 yards and two scores being brought out from time to time to try to hit the home run. He had a tremendous offseason and will get the starting nod at flanker with the hope to become the field stretcher and the potential No. 1 target. A former high school quarterback, he'll be used in the Wild Rebel formation from time to time and will also be the team's main punt and kickoff returner.
6-3, 205-pound Markeith Summers appeared to be on the verge of big things going into last year, but he finished fourth on the team with 17 catches for 394 yard and four scores. A huge recruit for the program with the size to match up well with any corner and the speed to get deep, he has the talent to finally break out in his senior season. Now it has to happen on a regular basis after averaging 23.2 yards per grab including a 65-yard touchdown against UAB. While he'll work as a split end, he could line up anywhere.
Taking over the tight end job will by sophomore Ferbia Allen , a 6-4, 240-pound pass catcher with tremendous athleticism and big-time upside. He started in five games last year and finished with six catches for 46 yards, but he has the speed to do far more as a deep threat. He might not block much, but he'll grow into a key safety valve.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Patrick Patterson is the team's best receiver … when he's on the team. He was suspended for a game last year and was booted from spring ball for a violation of team rules, but he's expected to be back at some point early on. At 6-2 and 215 pounds, he's big, physical, and has the speed to get deep. The type of receiver who becomes a No. 1 target, he still needs work and he needs polish, but he was able to make 12 catches for 180 yards and a score in a limited role last year.
Senior Lionel Breaux started in five games last year and has the potential to be a key factor this year after making 13 grabs for 160 yards and a score, but he was outplayed by Jesse Grandy for the flanker spot. The 6-0, 198-pounder has elite speed, winning the Louisiana state title in the 400 in both his junior and senior seasons, but he has yet to show off his wheels on a regular basis. If nothing else, he's good enough and fast enough to stretch the field to make safeties worry.
6-2, 181-pound redshirt freshman Ja-Mes Logan is big, moves like a much smaller target, and has the maturity and polish in his game to see time right away at the split end. With good hands, excellent skills, and just enough speed to get by, he'll be a major factor right away.
At 6-7 and 200 pounds, sophomore Melvin Harris is a matchup nightmare who'll be counted on to play a big role in the rotation. He saw a little bit of time catching a pass for five yards, and while he's raw with plenty of work needed on his route running ability, he could be a breakout player if he can make things happen in single coverage and if he can figure out how to use his size and skills.
Senior Reggie Hicks has mostly been a special teamer so far, but he got a little bit of work on offense last year catching a pass for 20 yards against Mississippi State. At 6-1 and 234 pounds, he's built more like a fullback, but he'll be used as a blocker and an occasional receiver in his final season.
Watch Out For … Grandy. While he's not going to be Dexter McCluster, he'll be used as an all-around playmaker who'll see plenty of time under center and as a runner. He's not built to handle the ball all that often, but when he's used he should be special.
Strength: Raw skills. If nothing else, this group can move. Grandy, Breaux, and Patterson are as fast as anyone in the SEC, and while Summers, Logan, and Harris aren't in that class, they have the size and athleticism to be matchup nightmares.
Weakness: Proven stars. There's a world of upside and a ton of talent, but the passing game lost Shay Hodge and McCluster and the third leading receiver from last year was RB Branden Bolden. That's 134 catches from last season that didn't come from the current receiving corps.
Outlook: Losing Hodge hurts, but there are too many talented prospects to not hope for a great year from the passing game as long as the quarterback play is solid. Grandy has the potential to be explosive, while Breaux, Patterson, and Summers are good enough to be deadly in single coverage. Getting more from the tight ends would be nice, but as long as the receivers are hitting home runs, all will be fine.
Unit Rating: 7
Projected Starters: All Bradley Sowell had to do was replace Michael Oher at left tackle. While he struggled early on and was beaten way too easily, he got much better as the year went on and now should be fine with a full year of starting experience under his belt. At 6-7 and 305 pounds, he's tall, athletic enough to have been used as a tight end in jumbo packages, and good enough to grow into the job. The junior had a tremendous offseason and should become be the anchor.
Sophomore Bobby Massie is on the verge of being special. The one-time star recruit got into good shape and turned in a nice true freshman season with starts in the last five games. A 6-6, 317-pounder, who originally signed with Virginia Tech, will start out at right tackle, but he'll finish his career on the left side with the potential to be in the hunt for a decent payday from the NFL if he keeps progressing. With decent feet, excellent size, and a willingness to finish off blocks as a power run blocker, he's great talent to rely on for the next few years.
The biggest hole to fill on the line is at right guard after John Jerry, who started off the year at right tackle before moving over, is off to the NFL. 6-4, 305-pound junior Rishaw Johnson was one of the lighter players in the mix, by comparison to the rest of the massive line, but he bulked up a bit and he should be a bit more powerful. He started four games last year and has the athleticism and the strength to be a fixture for the next two years if he can be a more consistent run blocker.
Gone at left guard is the solid Reid Neely, and in is Alex Washington, a massive 6-4, 340-pound junior who got the start against Northern Arizona last year and will get the first look this year. While he's not a polished all-around blocker, his size works well for the ground game and he's great in a phone booth. Just versatile enough to move to tackle if desperately needed, he's a smart, tough player who'll be good with a little more time.
6-4, 305-pound sophomore A.J. Hawkins will take the center job from unheralded veteran Daverin Geralds. A backup throughout last year, he got his feet just wet enough to be ready to go from Day One. While he has been beaten up by the Rebel defensive front in practices, he has the size and the talent to be fine. Even though he has the bulk and the toughness to play guard, he's a center.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Josh Tatum came into the offseason with the potential to pull out the left guard job if he was sensational, but now he'll be in a fight for the backup role. The 6-5, 315-pounder is a big inside presence with good run blocking skills, but he's not great on the move.
Redshirt freshman Chris Gill wasn't hotly recruited like most of the Ole Miss offensive linemen, but he has done just enough in his brief time to be in the mix for a backup guard job. At 6-2 and 282 pounds, he's short, squatty, and light for the Rebel line, but he moves well and he gets just good enough leverage to shove linemen around. He'll battle with Tatum for the No. 2 left guard job.
6-5, 305-pound redshirt freshman Michael Brown is a smart, punishing blocker with a nasty streak for the ground game and just enough quickness to be good pulling and trapping at right guard. He was a high school tackle, but his skills and lack of pure athleticism don't translate to an SEC level. At right guard in the rotation with Rishaw Johnson, he should be solid.
Junior Logan Clair came in from the JUCO ranks as a ready-made guard, but the 6-5, 305-pounder will work at tackle. An all-star at Northeastern Oklahoma CC, he can move around where needed and will likely be a key backup on the right side behind Bobby Massie.
Watch Out For … Massie. Yeah, he might have the dreaded Right Tackle Only tag by the next level types, but he at least has the potential to be on someone's Sunday offensive line. Wanted by Alabama and Miami, among others, he has dropped a bunch of bad weight, got a little quicker, and is looking the part of a good, strong all-around blocker.
Strength: Tackle. This was a problem area at times last year as Sowell struggled, but he was terrific this offseason and now he should hold his own against everyone in the SEC. He'll bookend with Massie to give the Rebels one of the best tackle tandems in the country.
Weakness: Proven interior. The inside of the Rebel line got destroyed in offseason practices, but it also had to face one of the best defensive lines in the nation every day. There's a little bit of returning experience to rely on, but the depth needs to be developed all across the front five and there could be some tinkering involved at the three inside spots before the start of the year.
Outlook: Ole Miss was able to get superior offensive line recruits under former head man Ed Orgeron, and Houston Nutt has continued the tradition. There isn't a Michael Oher on the line, but Massie is growing into a pro while Sowell was named the team's Outstanding Offensive Player this spring. The inside will come together in time, and if nothing else, it's big and will do some shoving around.
Unit Rating: 7.5
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