Earlier this week, Oregon State linebacker Rommel Mageo announced that he's coming to Ole Miss as a grad transfer, bringing a year of immediate eligibility to the thinnest position group in Oxford. With big misses on the last couple of Signing Days failing to provide replacements for the departed C.J. Johnson and Denzel Nkemdiche, Mageo will arrive on campus as the favorite to land the starting middle linebacker gig in 2016.
"Rommel, in getting a guy that is a veteran and has played there for three year of major college football in a power-5 conference," Hugh Freeze said in his first spring practice presser earlier this week. "We feel like he may be the guy. We don't know that for sure. He has to come down and earn it like everyone else, but you guys know that that is the place that we need help the most."
To get a better sense of Mageo's abilities and how he can contribute, we got up with Andy Woolridge from SB Nation's Oregon State site, Building the Dam. Our questions to him are in bold.
1. Mageo led the Beavers with 87 tackles last season. Do you think this is more a product of being on a less-than-great defense or a result of his abilities, generally?
Linebackers generally get the chance to make a lot of tackles, and he was good enough to get to a lot of plays beyond his primary coverage area. And in some games, the defensive line didn't keep a lot from getting to the second level.
2. What type of linebacker is he? Is he fast? Does he do well in coverage? What about when stopping the run?
I would rate him as above average in both run support and coverage, but not elite. He's a good athlete, and has a rugby background, and has decent speed, but again, not elite.
3. Has he always been a strong player, or was that an unexpected development last season? Also, why did he start just nine of the 12 games as a senior?
He was dinged up a little late in the season, which became a problem for a lot of players on a defense that was on the field far too much, due to the offense's limitations. But the starts stat is also misleading in that Oregon State started in nickel and even dime packages against some opponents, but still rotated a lot of players, him included, in early and often. The lack of starts was just a product of tactical decisions.
4. Why do you think Mageo is transferring? Did he ever express unhappiness at OSU?
I hadn't heard anything until his decision came out today, but I suspect he was approached with a proposal of a chance to play for a team that's going to contend in the SEC West, and for a good bowl, at a minimum. Prospects for a good season at Oregon State aren't great next year, even if the Beavers make some good progress, because the schedule is markedly more difficult than last year.
He, and the rest of the defense, will be on the third position coach and defensive coordinator in three years, a rate of turnover only surpassed by an offense that's on its fourth coordinator in four years and with no proven quarterback.
Mageo is the sixth player to transfer out since the end of the season, and in his case, I think its just a case of an opportunity that appears to be a better opportunity for success in the one year he has remaining.
5. OSU ran a 3-4 this season and a 4-3 the year before. Did that contribute to Mageo's emergence? Ole Miss runs a 4-2-5, for reference.
That's the one thing that's surprising. It appeared he was better suited for the 4-3, which is what he was recruited into, and worked in for three years. I haven't seen Ole Miss play much, and obviously don't know what the Rebel's staff is planning. There's also a lot of ways to run a 4-2-5; see TCU for example.
But at the same time, he is, as discussed above, a good athlete, and a smart player, and clearly the Ole Miss coaches envision him being able to help the Rebels. I know a lot of people from around these parts will be watching how things work out, similar to what happened when Richard Mullaney transferred to Alabama last year.