While it's difficult to really know much about a team before you see them play another team, we like to pretend that we know something about how the season will go. Because of that, you're about to read five season previews from five writers for the Cup. They're all pretty similar, so we'll all be equally embarrassed when our actual production is quite better/worse than our predictions. I'm up first.
I guess I like the idea of a new atmosphere around the team, so I think we'll win the games we should with maybe one upset. I expect to run-run-pass pretty regularly, though I think the runs should be creative. I expect to see us working a lot of sets with Brandon Bolden and Jeff Scott (that old triple option where the QB runs the read with BB and if the DE collapses on it, pitches it on the edge to J Scott) and things like such. Our early passing game will likely see a lot of bubble screens and slants, with the occasional deep ball going to Melvin Harris, and once he gets his feet under him, Nick Brassell.
Defense is a bit of a wildcard. We should have one of the more athletic defenses we've had in years past. We're not as big up front, but should be decent at defensive end. Having Kentrell back will help both in the pass rush and in adding some veteran leadership to the side. I think inside runs could be a problem early unless Gilbert Pena, Uriah Grant and company adjust quickly. Linebacker is where I have the most concern, for obvious reasons. Mike Marry will be fine, he's a physical specimen. Joel should be solid as well, since he's been playing I haven't seen anything to indicate that his size is an issue with durability or stopping big runningbacks. I like the idea of running a 4-2-5 a little more this year with Brishen Matthews walked down on the line of scrimmage. Considering how many teams on our schedule run a spread look, it will help both with our (lack of) depth at LB and should add some speed to our D's perimeter. Between Matthews, Jackson and __________ (fill in blank on other safety), I think our safeties will be fine. I think the key to whether we go 4-8 or 7-5 this year will be the play of the corners. If Charles Sawyer steps up and becomes a good lockdown corner (at least one where we can let him lineup 1 on 1 without too much worry), that will open up our D tremendously. At the other corner position, I fully expect Senquez Golson to be starting there by the end of the season-I kept seeing Cam Newton's catch over Temple this weekend. If we can get a safety over the top of the corner opposite Sawyer, then we could be traveling to Shrevport this year boys!
I think we will be 4-1 going into Alabama, and probably won't beat anyone else except for Kentucky and LA Tech down the stretch.
Prediction: 6-6, (2-6 SEC)
Sir Francis Drank
I really struggled with this. 0-0 is my favorite record, because it allows me to have a little optimism and temper the pessimistic lens through which I view Ole Miss sports. Gut feeling (honestly, no basis in reality here) says we'll get two out of three between BYU, Georgia, and Kentucky. We're not as bad as last year, but we're not world-beaters by any stretch of the imagination.The SEC West is still the best conference in college football, and we look to be the weakest team in it. We're the ugliest girl that got invited to the party--we might not turn any heads right away, but by the end of the night we could impress someone. The Rebels have a good home schedule this year, and I think if we can find consistent cornerbacks we should be able to hang in some games. My money is on a 6-6 finish, with a 2-6 finish in the SEC.
Prediction: 6-6 (2-6 SEC)
I cannot yet convince myself that this team is anything but a bad football team. I know that there are bits and pieces of this squad that give us cause for hope - Brandon Bolden, Jeff Scott, the experienced offensive line, the speed at wide receiver and defensive back. I get all of that, and I don't disagree with it. I just do not think that this team, given the pieces in play and the difficulty of the schedule, will fare any better overall than its 2010 counterpart.I do think that this team is better than 2010. I think the running game should be good. I think the youth at wide receiver and defensive back should be exciting. I imagine that the defense will be better, mostly because I cannot fathom it being any worse. I think that Barry Brunetti has potential to develop into a somewhat above-average SEC quarterback down the road. And I think that the coaching changes seen in the offseason, namely the additions of Keith Burns and Gunter Brewer, should give us new advantages in recruiting and gameplanning. The problem is, all of that will hardly be evident against the backdrop of the 2011 schedule.I will say this, though: if we beat BYU, I'll be the wooliest Rebel fan on Earth. If the Rebs beat BYU, this team goes bowling. If the Rebs lose to BYU, it could be another 1-7 SEC record type of season.Prediction: 5-7 (2-6 SEC)
Our starting QB was the last to lead a team over South Panola in Batesville since 2001 - Barry Brunetti. Does that mean I believe in miracles? It could haaaaaappen, says cute black kid from Angels in the Outfield.
How Brunetti performs will shape our season. If he is as erratic throwing downfield as the message boards say (see: Tevis Flowers), then SEC defenses will load up the box defensively and it won't matter that we have a slew of RBs at our disposal. If Brunetti can prove to extend plays and connect at least on play action mid-range routes, we're going to upset a biggie this year. I'm leaning towards this school of thought with an emergence of TE Jamal Mosley as a top target for Brunetti.
Defensively, I think we're still not going to impress anyone. Kentrell Lockett will be double or triple teamed this season. Whether Jason Jones and our d-line capitalize on that is suspect a best in my opinion. Our pass defense couldn't be too much worse along with our ability to tackle.
To assume our defense will progress as the season moves along is placing too much faith in Tyrone Nix. I just don't think the talent is there yet for us to dramatically improve. We'll look better but only because every team we play this year except Alabama is going to be overrated. LSU's defense won't be as sharp, Arky has a new QB and Auburn may not make a bowl. Shit, Mark Richt may be fired by October.
When we finish 7-5 this year, it won't be because Houston Nutt exceeded expectations. It'll be because everyone else in the West didn't live up to theirs.
Wins: BYU, SIU, Vandy, Fresno, La Tech, LSU, MSUPrediction: 7-5 (3-5 SEC)