Ole Miss football’s defensive prospects in 2017 received a welcome jolt of good news Wednesday as rising senior DE Marquis Haynes announced that he would return to play out his eligibility in lieu of entering this year’s NFL Draft. This is very much a good thing.
After talking with my parents and coach Freeze it's best that I return to school and play my senior season as an Ole Miss Rebel.— quis haynes (@4Quis) December 14, 2016
In 2016, Haynes registered the second most solo tackles on the team with 29. He led all Landsharks with 7.0 sacks and 11.0 tackles for loss, the only such player on the unit to eclipse double digits in the latter category. He also contributed an interception and a fumble for good measure.
Following last season’s disappointing Egg Bowl, Haynes waffled on his decision to stay or turn pro. In the immediate aftermath of the game, he told the Ole Miss Spirit that he was “99 percent sure” he’d forgo his senior season. He later softened that while speaking to CBS, saying "I guess I just ... I don't know right now.”
As of this writing, CBS was projecting Haynes as the No. 6 outside linebacker in the 2017 draft class. Perhaps it’s that positional shift that convinced him to stay one more year. In any case, Ole Miss’ coaches often stand him up and move him around the line of scrimmage, like on his interception play against Arkansas:
The announcement is especially interesting given the uncertainty at the defensive coordinator position in Oxford currently, since Haynes expressed strong allegiance to Dave Wommack after the former DC announced his retirement. As he told CBS sports:
"Coach Wommack, I know he's old and stuff, but he's been like an uncle to me. I go in his office and talk to him and stuff. To me, that's one of the best college coaches on defense in the world to me. Knowing that he's not going to be here no more ... I've just got to find myself someone else's room to go to and go talk to them."
Whoever takes over defensive play-calling duties next year, the new hire will inherit some much needed experience and range on the outside pass rush.