Picking Up Where We Leave Off: Who's Leaving, and Who's Filling in for Them?

Stacy Revere

The Rebels lose some production to graduation and the NFL Draft this year, so who should we expect to fill in their spots?

[ED: Fit4LifeLLC volunteered to mine the data for us here, and offered a great deal of insight. We owe him a beer or ten.]

For 2014, the Ole Miss Rebels will be replacing eight starters at key positions, including wide receiver, offensive tackle, and kicker. Whose production will we miss the most, and who will we hope to replace them? Those are the questions we sought to answer with this statistical review. Admittedly, those are tough questions to answer, as we must rely on a great deal of conjecture to answer them. Still, it's the offseason, so you'll read it anyway.

So, here are the stats leaders from last year, the departing contributors, and who we project to replace them.

Passing

Quick question: which SEC quarterback was second in the conference in passing yards behind Johnny Manziel? I would wager that, if you were to ask your everyday college football fan, he or she would say A.J. McCarron or Aaron Murray. And they'd be wrong, because both threw for fewer yards than Bo Wallace this past season. Somehow and despite this fact he did take some criticism from Rebel fans (mostly due to his abysmal performance in the Egg Bowl), but Dr. Bo returns to the Rebel roster as one of the more proven commodities in the conference. He had one of the best statistical seasons in Ole Miss football history, throwing for over 3,000 yards and completing nearly 65% of his passes, despite having a somewhat limited running game and an arm that wasn't nearly at 100% strength after having off-season shoulder surgery.

With an offseason of strength training and another year in the system, and assuming he can stay healthy, we feel he could put together a special season.

Departing from the quarterback rotation this year is Barry Brunetti, who also made significant strides this season and contributed in ways that we wouldn't have foreseen. He was used mostly in jumbo packages as a rushing quarterback, but he was also pretty effective throwing the ball, particularly in the red zone.

Name

Comp/Att

Yards

Int

TDs

Comp %

Effeciency

Bo Wallace

283/437

3346

10

18

64.8

138.09

Barry Brunetti

23/41

294

0

6

56.1

164.62

Robert Ratliff

3/7

24

2

0

42.9

14.51

As you can see, the passing offense was pretty much all Bo Wallace, with Brunetti not even attempting a tenth of the passes Wallace attempted. Still, the backup was responsible for ten total touchdowns on the year (those six you see above plus a quartet of rushing scores), meaning that there's a chance that Ryan Buchanan, DeVante Kincade, or even signee Jeremy Liggins could see time in an offensive role which we don't see going anywhere anytime soon. If we were to wager, we'd lean on Liggins getting a solid look in the spring at the backup quarterback gig due to his size, with Kincade getting plenty of reps as well due to his passing.

Rushing

The Rebels running game this season was not as prolific as we'd have expected. In big games, the Rebels really struggled to establish a consistent running game threat due to injuries and depth issues. Senior Jeff Scott missed half of the season with a thigh, and in his stead worked Jaylen Walton and iTavius Mathers who, while capable in their own right, aren't as fully complete as a healthy Jeff Scott is toting the rock. Add to that injuries on the offensive line, most notably to preseason all-SEC guard Aaron Morris' torn ACL against Vanderbilt, and you've got a running game that could most diplomatically be described as inconsistent.

Another point here, Bo Wallace's willingness to keep the zone read play and create just enough runs inside really adds another dimension to the offense and makes it much more difficult to defend. Consider that in the Rebels losses Wallace averaged 12.2 rushing yards and, in the wins, 36.8 yards per game. I realize this isn't that much of a difference in raw yardage, but the credible threat to run is really what counts to keep the outside runs open. When that couldn't be established, the Rebels struggled.

And while we can't establish causality of this disparity in yards, we can argue that the correlation itself is important... because it is... because we say so. Shut up.

Name

Attempts

Yards

TDs

Average/Game

Long

I'Tavius Mathers

95

563

3

46.9

64

Jaylen Walton

113

523

6

40.2

40

Jeff Scott

67

493

2

61.6

75

Bo Wallace

131

355

6

27.3

29

Without Jeff Scott, Walton and Mathers will probably get the bulk of the carries as they did through most of the season. Walton is the better receiver among the two, and has good enough field vision to wiggle through holes effectively, whereas Mathers has size and excellent breakaway speed. We'd like to see Mathers become a more legitimate receiving threat (as Walton is). We'd also like to see where Mark Dodson Jr., Akeem Judd, and D.K. Buford can fit in this rotation. If we're to wager on any signee getting early time out of the backfield, it'd be Judd, who is a healthy 210 pounds and could provide the punch the Rebels have been lacking out of the running game since BenJarvus Green-Ellis was on campus.

Receiving

The receiving corps was the strength of this team in 2013, and has the depth to certainly be a strength in 2014 as well. The Rebels lose one of the best receivers in Ole Miss history in Donte Moncrief along with sure-handed Ja-Mes Logan, but returns the team's receptions leader in Laquon Treadwell and an all-SEC tight end in Evan Engram.  Other key contributors coming back are, Vincent Sanders, Quincy Adeboyejo and Cody Core, the latter two of which will be relied on much more heavily with Moncrief and Logan's departures.

Name

Receptions

Yards

TDs

Average/Game

Long

Laquon Treadwell

72

608

5

46.8

38

Donte Moncrief

59

938

6

72.2

67

Ja-Mes Logan

44

583

3

48.6

75

Jaylen Walton

29

322

2

24.8

56

Signee Sammie Epps should see time right away in a reserve role or situationally as a tight end, and don't be shocked if freshman four-star receiver Markell Pack figures into the rotation immediately with his 6'3" frame. I know it may sound odd to say that losing 1,521 yards and 9 touchdowns between Donte Moncrief and Ja-Mes Logan isn't that worrisome, but this is one area where the Rebels have recruited well enough and have a system in place to keep the offense humming. Yes, we'll miss those guys, but the step back that the passing attack takes in 2014 won't have to be so drastic.

Offensive Line

The Rebels lose a lot of experience on the offensive line for 2014, making this unit - yet again - one of the team's weak links. Senior tackle Emmanuel McCray lost his starting job to Laremy Tunsil in 2013, but still saw plenty of time in certain packages. Patrick Junen and Jared Duke saw a lot of time at the guard positions, particularly after Aaron Morris went down with a knee injury. Evan Swindall was a reliable senior starter at center. And Pierce Burton, while incredibly mistake prone, was an effective right tackle who honestly doesn't get the credit he deserves for his contributions (Remember, he started right out of Juco at the right tackle spot for two seasons. Who in the hell would we have had there without him, particularly last year?).

There's a lot of speculation as to who ends up where up front, but one thing's for certain - Laremy Tunsil is the damn truth at left tackle. He'll hold down that spot for as long as he's capable until he's nabbed up by the NFL in two seasons. Justin Bell, who was a capable guard, particularly early, could move to center along with Ben Still. Signee Rod Taylor, rated as high as the No. 2 guard in high school football, will surely get a look at guard early, and likely at right guard opposite of a now healthy Aaron Morris at left. That just leaves us with the right tackle spot, which will most likely be occupied by Fahn Cooper as soon as he enrolls in the Summer post his final semester at junior college.

Defense

As a unit, the defense dealt with a rash of injuries all year. Most notably, CJ Johnson was lost for almost the entire season after ankle surgery. Charles Sawyer had a banged up shoulder which limited his action. Denzel Nkemdiche had his knee scoped after a meniscus tear. Rober Nkemdiche missed three games with a pulled hamstring. Serderius Bryant rode the pine after a nasty concussion suffered against Texas A&M. And so on and so forth and you get the picture. Even then, the defense was good enough to be called serviceable, if not somewhat good considering the circumstances.

The Rebs thankfully don't lose many major contributors off of the Landshark D for 2014, but notable departures are defensive back Charles Sawyer and linebacker Mike Marry. Marry in particular will be tough to replace, as he was a three-year starter at the mike linebacker position. Look for Marry's backup Keith Lewis to compete against signee Christian Russell for time at his spot. As for Sawyer, his corner spot is probably solidly occupied by Derrick Jones, with signees Tee Shepard and Kendarius Webster firmly in the rotation opposite of Senquez Golson.

Ole Miss Defensive Leaders

Name

Tackles (Total)

TFL

Turnover Plays

Sacks

PBU's

Serderius Bryant

78

12.5

0

3

1

Cody Prewitt

71

4.5

6

0

7

Tony Connor

66

5

1

1

6

Trae Elston

62

2

2

0

6

Mike Marry

52

4.5

1

1

1

Mike Hilton

52

5.5

1

0

4

The Rebels got a boost when All-America selection Cody Prewitt decided to return for his senior season.The Rebels will return 5 of the top 6 tacklers for the 2014 season that should help a unit that made great strides in 2013 despite the injuries. If this defense can stay healthy, it will be the strength of the team.

This is where is gets fun. There was a great deal of disparity in the numbers between the Rebs' wins and losses. In every game the Rebels lost this year with the exception of one (Auburn) they lost the first downs, average yards per play, and total offensive plays run. Another telling stat is the red zone touchdown percentage. In the Rebels losses, that was a paltry 26.66%! For the Rebels to make a jump in wins next year this must improve. That's the most understatement-y understatement we're gonna make here.

Ole Miss Offense Season

Ole Miss Defense Season

OM Offense (Non Conference)

Ole Miss Defense (Non Conference)

Ole Miss Offense (Conference Wins)

Ole Miss Defense (Conference Wins)

Ole Miss Offense (Conference Losses)

Ole Miss Defense (Conference Losses)

Scoring

390

308

210

88

100

83

80

137

First Downs

317

266

28

16.4

27

21

19.2

24.2

Rushing Yardage

2470

2014

1439

442

485

436

546

1136

Passing Yardage

3683

2802

1342

994

1060

767

1281

1041

Total Offense

6153

4816

2781

1436

1545

1203

1827

2177

Avg Per Game

473.3

370.5

556.2

287.2

515

401

365.4

435.4

Average Per Play

6

5.3

6.84

4.3

6.33

5.933

4.88

5.74

Total Plays

1018

917

405

334

244

203

369

380

Avg. Play/Game

78.3

70.5

81

66.8

81.33

67.67

73.8

76

OM

OM (Non Conference)

OM (Confernce WIns)

OM (Conference Losses)

Turnovers

21

7

4

9

Punting

51 for 37.7 yds net

14 for 39.2 yds net

10 for 33.9 yds net

27 for 38 yds net

Time of Possession

29:44:00

31:20:00

31:45:00

26:59:00

3rd Conversion %

46%

51.4%

51.1%

37.8%

4th Conversion %

54%

61.67%

66.67%

47%

Sacks For

20 for 147 yds

9 for 73 yds

5 for 42 yds

6 for 32 yds

FG

16/24 (66%)

5/7 (71.4%)

5/7 (71.4%)

5/9 (55.56%)

Red Zone Scoring

74%

82%

91.67%

46.64%

Red Zone TD Scoring

52%

68%

60%

26.66%

Penalties

41.6 yds/game

42.8 yds/game

38 yds/game

42.6 yds/game

Team Stats

OM (FBS Rank)

OM (SEC Rank)

Total Yards

20th

5th

Passing Yards

24th

3rd

Rushing Yards

42nd

8th

Scoring Offense

56th

8th

Points Against

37th

7th

Rushing Defense

52nd

9th

Passing Defense

36th

8th

Total Defense

39th

7th

Turnover Margin

tied 56th

tied 7th

Pass Defense Efficiency

40th

5th

First Downs Offense

21st

5th

3rd Down Conversions

26th

4th

Red Zone Offense

109th

13th

Specialists

We got an Aussie punter! His name's Will Gleeson, and he's from Australia! He probably has a wacky accent and loves surfing. He also drives a Land Rover, eats steak, and calls a grill a "barbie" because, again, Australia. He'll replace Tyler Campbell, who punted admirably for the Rebs for a solid four seasons.

Andrew Ritter's kickoff and placekicking duties are likely to be split between Andy "Pop ‘n' Loch Ness Monster" Poppanastos and freshman Gary Wunderlich. The former grayshirted with the program last year, while the latter signed this year as one of the top high school kickers in America.

The Rebels lose their top punt returners in Jeff Scott and Jordan Holder to graduation, and really just need someone there who won't drop the ball and fork it over to LSU in critical moments (you know who you are). Let's just make it Laquon Treadwell and be done with it.

On kickoff returns, Jaylen Walton will get most of the work there alongside Mark Dodson Jr. or Kailo Moore.

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