Juco: Ole Miss' strongest unit is easily its receiving corps. What does Alabama's secondary look like, particularly with respect to size and experience?
Brent: After quite a few years of having issues in the secondary, 2016 looks to hold the best Alabama defensive backfield since 2011, a team with Dee Milliner, Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron, and Robert Lester.
Marlon Humphrey leads the way at cornerback. The third year sophomore is a big player at 6'1 and around 200 pounds. He's also a track star with very impressive speed. Humphrey is a smooth and graceful athlete who can lock down receivers as well as make some impactful hits in run support. He has a good shot at being a top-15 draft pick as a sophomore.
Next is Minkah Fitzpatrick. The true sophomore from New Jersey plays the nickel corner, or star, position, and is a shade bigger than Humphrey. While not as good of a pure cover man as Humphrey (and also a little prone to pass interference calls), Fitzpatrick is an exceptional ball hawk with an uncanny ability to stick his nose in every single play.
At safety, Eddie Jackson is the fifth-year senior and ringleader of the group. He's a former cornerback, so his ballhawking ability was on display as he led the SEC in interceptions last year. He also seems to get a touchdown almost every time he intercepts the ball. For all his ability, however, he has a bit of an Achilles heel when it comes to making a tackle at an angle. He over pursues more often than not, and runners can easily cut back inside of him.
The other safety is true sophomore Ronnie Harrison. Like Fitzpatrick, Harrison made an impact last year as a true freshman, and returns for a second season with more experience. He's a big hitter at 6'3, 215, and a surprisingly nimble cover man. He plays with unmatched fire and passion, a trait that sometimes gets the best of him, whether it be by over aggressiveness to play fakes or getting into arguments on the sideline.
The new member of the secondary this season is redshirt junior Anthony Averrett. The smallest member of the backfield at a generous 6'0, 180, he's also the fastest, reportedly tied with Calvin Ridley as the second fastest player on the team. Despite that, he's a little raw and unsure of himself still. USC dropped a couple of deep balls on him early, and Western Kentucky tried to do the same, though he corrected his mistakes in Game 2. He's also been surprisingly effective in run support so far, and actually leads the team in tackles. If Ole Miss is going to pick on a weak link, it will likely be Averrett.
When in a dime defense, safety Ronnie Harrison will move up to cover the fourth receiver, while junior safety Hootie Jones, a 220-pound monster, will take his spot deep. Jones has been the primary backup for three years, but has never been given much playing time. He's mostly an unknown, but the coaches seem to trust him.
Brent: What do the Ole Miss receivers look like? What are their strengths and how will they match up?
Juco: Ole Miss' receiving corps lost two players to the NFL draft last season, but it's set up to remain strong. While other units at Ole Miss would be decimated by the loss of two NFL-caliber players, the coaches have recruited well at the position.
The Rebels return Damore'ea Stringfellow, who is huge and quite good. He hasn't been featured in the offense as the Rebels spread the ball around, but he is clearly the most likely receiver to emerge as Treadwell's production replacement. He is good at using his body when the ball is in the air, and he has reliable hands. He isn't a burner, but he has adequate speed.
Quincy Adeboyejo is the other outside starter. He's good and all, but he hasn't ever really developed into anything more than a really fast receiver. He's at his best when asked to take the top off of a defense, but if the Rebels are looking for a few tough yards, Chad Kelly is generally looking elsewhere.
The starter in the slot is redshirt freshman Van Jefferson, who was a top-10 receiver coming out of high school. He is the best route runner on the team and is known for having good hands (though he did not display them against Wofford). Jefferson isn't particularly fast, but the hope is that the crispness of his routes lowers that issue.
Damarkus Lodge, a true sophomore who should have redshirted last season, is a very capable outside receiver, but he hasn't distinguished himself in the rotation yet. He was also a top ten prospect out of high school, and fans still expect a good bit out of him.
Markell Pack is the only other significant veteran. The junior has made several tough catches during his career, but he has never dominated. He's a solid possession receiver but doesn't ever make plays for big gains.
A.J. Brown is the freshman of note, after major red zone threat since D.K. Metcalf broke his foot against Wofford. Brown is reminiscent of Laquon Treadwell in terms of his ability to pick up yards after the catch by physically decimating opponents. He's not Treadwell, but there are similarities there. In particular, there was one play against Florida State in which Brown stiff-armed a corner to the ground and didn't appear to lose any speed.