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Ole Miss 2014 Spring Football Storylines: Who Replaces Mike Marry at Middle Linebacker?

A multi-year starter is gone after a serviceable career in the Rebel defense. How will they shore this absence up during spring drills?

Could Deterrian Shackelford hold that position down?
Could Deterrian Shackelford hold that position down?
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

He might not have a high draft pick and a long NFL career waiting on him, but Mike Marry was a more-than-serviceable middle linebacker for the Ole Miss Rebels over the past few seasons. While a bit oversized (that is to say, slow) for the type of defense Dave Wommack likes to run, Marry was a reliable starter because of his football smarts and surefire tackling ability. He might not have caught every player, but it wasn't due to a lack of effort, as he was generally one to be in the right spot, pursue the play well, and leverage his hands and body to avoid broken or missed tackles.

Now that he is graduating, a huge gap is left in the Landshark defense at his mike linebacker spot. This spring, the Rebels will work out three players in that role, combining experience and elite athleticism to hopefully determine either a starter or a reliable rotation that can come close to matching Marry's productivity.

Deterrian "DT" Shackelford, a rare sixth-year senior, is the veteran of the group. He has excellent football instincts and knowhow, and has enough size to play either mike linebacker or a defensive end spot - where he saw most of his snaps towards the end of last season. As he has had two knee surgeries, he is an injury risk and doesn't display nearly as much mobility as is ideal, but his role as a leadership and consistency in making plays can't be matched by anyone else in this spot.

It wouldn't surprise us to see Deterrian earn the starting spot, as well as play a rush-end spot situationally both in the spring and this fall. We are thinking that his veteran status will be too much for the coaches to overlook.

Christian Russell is the newcomer of the group, joining Ole Miss this spring after graduating from East Mississippi Community College where he was the starting middle linebacker for the 2013 Junior College National Champs. Listed at 6'0", 230 pounds and rated as a three or four star prospect (depending on which service you prefer), Russell could get first string snaps right  away and, if his highlights are any indicator, he could be a very valuable and welcomed addition.

Seeing time on special teams and in a reserve role last year, Temario Strong should have a more active year after finishing 2013 with just nine total tackles. Strong did contribute mightily on special teams, including a block against Texas which sprung Jeff Scott free on a touchdown punt return, suggesting that he is, at the very least, capable of being a role player in the Rebel defense, particularly in third-and-long situations where the mike linebacker might be tasked as a pass rusher.