While this group of freshmen wasn't nearly as impactful as last season's stellar class, it has already produced a number of major contributors, even if none are considered stars at the moment. We've selected four who were particularly important this season, but there are a few more who we're leaving out simply because their relevance on the season wasn't at the same level as The Chosen Ones. I'll be listing each of the four alphabetically.
Fadol Brown started nine games at defensive end for the Rebels, ending the season tenth in total tackles with 33, adding 5.5 tackles for loss and 5 quarterback hurries. The sophomore was a very steady presence opposite CJ Johnson and Marquis Haynes, progressing well over the course of the season. The 6'4" 280 pound defensive end will continue to be heavily involved over the next two seasons, and his play of late suggests he may start to produce a few impact plays.
I should point out that Brown is only technically a newcomer since he was technically on campus last season. He wasn't eligible then though, so that's the out I'm giving myself. Yeah. Sue me. You may make the decisions, but I make the rules.
The Rebels had a huge void at right tackle in the offseason, and they signed Cooper to help fill said void. It took him some time to adjust his game, but Cooper started all twelve regular season games. He even filled in at left tackle when Laremy Tunsil was out with injury, playing quite well while protecting the blindside. Make no mistake, early in the year Fahn Cooper wasn't very good. By the end of the season, however, he had really cemented his spot. While the Rebels will have to replace both starting tackles after next season, I don't think there's a major sense of urgency anymore to find someone who can immediately challenge Cooper for playing time. He's earned some confidence from the coaches (in my uninformed opinion).
I've written a good bit about Haynes. In the Spring, Ole miss fans began to hear reports that Haynes was a "freak." In his signing day press conference, Hugh Freeze called him "phenomenal."
In only his freshman season, Marquis Hyanes paced the Rebels with 7.5 sacks. Second place was CJ Johnson with three. Haynes earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors after dismantling the Tennessee offensive line. He's a stellar pass rusher, but if the coaches want him to be more than that (and if not, that's cool too), he needs to gain a little weight to hold up against the run game. Haynes had one tackle in the Arkansas loss and zero against LSU. He simply doesn't work well against teams who try to run right at the defense. If he just wants to be an awesome pass-rusher who makes life hell for quarterbacks on third downs, that's fine. If not, he has to gain weight.
This Summer, Derrick Jones moved to wide receiver. Then Carlos Davis and Tee Sheppard were lost for the season, and he didn't move back. I remember being bewildered. What were the coaches going to do? Press Kendarius Webster into the nickel spot immediately? Um... yes. And it worked. Webster finished the season with just eighteen tackles (a generally good stat for corners) and broke up two passes. He took his lumps, but Webster's play as a freshman made a huge difference in the team's ability to play the type of aggressive defense it wanted to.
He didn't find himself out of position, and blown coverages were essentially non-existent. That's remarkable for a freshman, and I'm excited to see what he can do as a sophomore.
So that's it. There are other names I considered including, like Jeremy Liggins, but this is ultimately the list I went with. Which of these players do you think should be named the Newcomer of the Year?