You know, like his jersey number? Fine, whatever, just click the jump.
You've been soaking it all in for the last few months now. Whether propagated by ESPN, your drinking buddies, or every body's favorite Ole Miss Rebel sports blog, you've become inundated with the idea that this upcoming Rebel football season could be one of the greatest ever. There's talk of finally making the trip to Atlanta for the SEC championship game, an SEC Title (ok maybe not so much), and a Heisman Trophy for Jevan Snead (slow down, dreamer).
And why not? These Rebels have talent all across the board, a coaching staff as competent as any we have had in Oxford in decades, and a very favorable schedule. Despite the best efforts of our Rebels' detractors, this is a damn good football team.
But, how good?
When people think of the greatest Rebel teams of recent memory, two should readily come to mind: this one, and the 2003 version of our Rebels. As most of you should recall--we understand if you don't--2003 saw a Rebel team led by Eli Manning fall a lousy three points short of a berth to a very winnable SEC Championship game. A few miscues throughout the season kept the 2003 Rebels from legitimately running the table. That was a good Rebel squad; there is no doubt about it. However, despite the high level of success achieved by Eli and company, they were not nearly as complete a squad as we will see on Saturdays this fall.
While difficult, if not impossible to prove before the season starts, let's do our best to objectively look the upstart 2003 Rebels and the talented 2009 Rebels position-by-position. Go:
Defensive Line: Strong Advantage 2009
Linebackers: Slight Advantage 2009
The linebackers in 2003 left a lot to be desired in terms of speed. While Patrick Willis was technically on the team, he was having a year of eligibility thrown away on special teams in David Cutcliffe's seniority-based depth chart. Patrick Trahan, Allen Walker, and Jonathan Cornell form a solid unit, and there's a little more depth here than people think.
Secondary: Slight Advantage 2009
Johnathan Nichols, when not playing LSU, was perfect. Joshua Shene is the conference's best placekicker, but he still hasn't shown that he can be what Nichols was. What 2009's special teams may "lack" in kicking, it more than makes up for in athleticism and innovation. Remember, Special Teams Coordinator, James Shibest, won National ST Coordinator of the Year in 2008. He can scheme with the best of them.
Offensive Line: Strong Advantage 2003
Running Backs: Strong Advantage 2009
Quarterbacks: Slight-to-Strong Advantage 2003