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Cuppy Awards 2014: Most Improved Ole Miss Football Player

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The second of our end-of-regular-season awards goes to the player who showed the most improvement from last season. There are a number of solid candidates, and I'm hopeful this one won't be as big of a runaway as the Newcomer of the Year poll, though it's pretty likely.

Let me encourage you all to really think about this. Don't just vote for the person you like the most.

DT Bryon Bennett

In 2013, Bryon Bennett had ten total tackles. Ten. In seven starts. I honestly thought he was a big letdown, even aside from his statistics. He wasn't getting much pressure, and he wasn't ever really getting through the line. I remember back in August when I was thinking about who the Rebels would eventually lose to graduation after the season, I didn't even care about Bennett.

But in 2014, Bryon Bennett made an impact. He finished the regular season with eighteen tackles, 4.5 for loss, 2 pass breakups, and 2 quarterback hurries. I think that more than his stats show though, he messed up plays. He was a disruptive force at times, and he performed admirably against the run. The Rebels are going to have trouble replacing the Madison Central (R.I.P., Ghost) product next season.

CB Cliff Coleman

In 2013, Cliff Coleman played in all thirteen games, making eight tackles. That's about all I've got. I don't remember him being meaningful to the team. If he was, sorry. Again, entering his senior year in 2014, I thought of Coleman as a lost cause.

But this season he ended up playing a ton. He had a pick six against Vanderbilt, but even before that Coleman was playing and thriving. He broke up four passes this season, good for third on the team. He was eventually passed for primary nickel duties by Kendarius Webster, but that's only because Webster ended up being so great. Coleman contributed a ton as a senior, and I would definitely list him as a significant loss heading into the offseason.

WR Cody Core

Early in the season, and later once Laquon Treadwell had gone down to injury, Cody Core was very reliable. He stepped up when the team needed someone to emerge as a receiver. On the season, Core has 38 catches for 530 yards and six touchdowns after finishing last season with just four catches for 91 yards. Suffice it to say, Core made a big jump, in usage at the very least.

We heard in August that the receiver position was one of concern, but I don't really understand how that was the case, given what we actually saw this season from guys like Vince Sanders and Core. I still theorize people just didn't realize how good the Ole Miss corners were then.