Last night at 11 CT, the deadline lapsed for major league baseball prospects to sign pro contracts. With the chiming of the hour, Ole Miss got shocking news that freshman cornerback Senquez Golson will be in the Rebel secondary this season and not in Fenway Park (or more likely Bumpkinville arena) as many had assumed. This is a fantastic addition to the team, and Golson is headed to Oxford with plans to resume practice today. I hope he's greeted with a wealth of fans (for the first 20 minutes of practice before being sent to run the stairs at Vaught-Hemingway - that's what you get for missing practice yesterday, freshman).
This is a big time development for this Rebel secondary. If you'll recall, on signing day back in February, hyped corners Floyd Raven and Jermaine Whitehead both unexpectedly spurned the Rebels signing with Texas A&M and Auburn respectively. At the time, it seemed a crushing blow. Those two were going to be the cornerbacks of the future, while both of the other high school corners in the class appeared to have their futures as Ole Miss Rebels in jeopardy. Nick Brassell was in slight danger of failing to qualify academically, and Senquez Golson was a shoe in to take MLB money and play minor league ball. Just over six months later, both are on the team, and both look good enough to see time on the field this fall.
In fact, both have been at Ole Miss for the majority of the Summer. Brassell had little problem qualifying (arriving in Oxford in early July to enroll in Summer classes), and Golson was only out of the area for a single day (yesterday in Boston). Both have already made their presence felt, and they are working hard enough to play very soon.
Golson steps in as our immediate dime (essentially fourth) corner, but I could see him quickly ascending the ranks situationally. I don't think we'll see him start any game this year, but he will probably be called on to defend some outside receivers in the right situations. He's simply faster (though smaller) than Marcus Temple, and his positioning, in the one scrimmage that I've seen, appeared better than Wesley Pendleton, our current nickel corner. He's not passing Charles Sawyer, our most accomplished and impressive starter (who I think will play in the NFL), but Golson has incredible potential to help stop teams from being able to dink and dunk down the field, and definitely has the range and speed to cover significant swaths of football real estate in the defensive backfield.
Last season, our corners struggled so much that we couldn't rely on them to man up in coverage and were forced to play a lot of zone. With the additions of Golson and Pendleton as well as the emergence of Sawyer, I don't think that will be a problem we relive in 2011. BYU can do their spread stuff and send receivers in motion all they want. If we're in man, it won't change much of anything in the secondary. Golson will be able to stay with most receivers underneath and will be able to kick outside when he needs to. He was a crucial, crucial get for the Rebels, and we're thrilled that he chose football over baseball.
In practices Nick Brassell has played both receiver and cornerback. The coaches know he can contribute immediately at either position, but aren't sure where they need him right now. The most obvious answer would be cornerback, but I get the impression that the coaches like the other four corners vying for playing time enough to stick Brassell at receiver for the most part. He'll probably play a little bit of corner as well, but I expect most of his time to be spent at wideout. His speed is simply something that none of our other receivers can match. A receiver who can open up the field is exactly what guys like Ja-Mes Logan and Donte Moncrief need to flourish. If opposing safeties are focused on not getting beat deep, they won't be able to spend as much time jumping the short, crisp routes in which both Moncrief and Logan excel. It's football 101, really. A lightning fast receiver can absolutely make or break an offense, something which we Rebels were fortunate to see with Mike Wallace in the last half of the 2008-9 season.
It's worth noting that the only reason we can afford to do this with Brassell is that Golson decided to come to Ole Miss. Otherwise, he'd be playing much more corner, and we could probably anticipate seeing his receiver play wear down as he grew tired in games. This way, we only have to have him play corner in certain situations and can allow him to primarily attempt to take the roof off defenses.
By turning down more than 1.5 million dollars to play football at Ole Miss, Senquez Golson has already cemented himself in Rebel lore. He'll be a fan favorite from the very first game of his career onward. When he does anything, anything at all, fans will cheer. "I DONE SAW SENQUEZ BLOW HIS NOSE INTO THAT TOWEL WHOOOO HOTTY TODDY!"
Remember, we saw our fans cheering for Jerrell Powe when he jumped offsides and earned us a penalty. I can't imagine the fervent exuberance we'll display for an eighteen year old who turned down more than a million dollars (yankee "Dan Jones" dollars, at that) to contribute at Ole Miss.
Honestly, I'll be right there with them. Whenever Senquez draws pass interference calls, I'm going to scream at the ref. If he gets beat, I'm going to accuse the receivers of pushing off. Golson has already done enough to earn my respect, because he seems to love Ole Miss as much as I do.
Thanks for sticking with it, Senquez. We've got a feeling you're going to be a real difference maker.