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Breeland Speaks will skip his final year, enter the 2018 NFL Draft

The Jackson, Miss. native will not return in 2018.

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Oklahoma State vs Mississippi Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss’ defense was not the brightest in 2017, but in the second half of the season there were flashes here and there. And now, one of those responsible for igniting the flame is gone now that Rebel defensive lineman Breeland Speaks announced Tuesday in a statement released by the Ole Miss Athletic Department that he'll forgo his redshirt senior season to enter the NFL Draft.

The Callaway High School alum had himself an up and down career, shifting around all over the defensive line, but his redshirt junior year was a damn good one. Big No. 9 collected 67 total tackles, eight quarterback pressures, eight tackles for loss, and seven sacks this season. Not bad for a guy who was just getting accustomed to defensive end after playing inside for the better part of three years.

The 6’3, 285-pounder redshirted his first year in Oxford but then played in every game the last three years, starting 19 of them. The former four-star recruit from Jackson played his best against Ole Miss’ rivals this year. In the two games against LSU and Mississippi State, Speaks totaled 25 tackles, three sacks, and a fumble recovery. You remember that one, right?

Speaks came out of Callaway as a four-star recruit who was recruited heavily by LSU and former Tiger staffer, now UTSA head coach, Frank Wilson, but ultimately chose to go with Derrick Nix and the red and blue on signing day back in 2014. He also held offers from Arkansas, Florida State, Mississippi State, and South Carolina.

So what now? With Speaks leaving early and Marquis Haynes graduating, 14.5 sacks are now out the door. That leaves Josiah Coatney, Benito Jones, Austrian Robinson, Ryder Anderson, Victor Evans, Herbert Moore, and Garrald McDowell as the only returning Rebels on the roster who recorded sacks in 2017. Coatney is the only one with more than one and a half.

Best case scenario, Qaadir Sheppard recovers from his injury and adjusts in his second season in the SEC and tears it up. Then, you have to hope that redshirt freshmen like Charles Wiley are just a light bulb turning on away from seeing even more significant playing time and that Freddie Roach signs a few instant impact guys in the 2018 class.

As of this writing, Breeland is graded by Draft Analyst as a third-round pick, but they speak highly of the former Rebel, saying he is coming off a “career season” and that he “has the size and skill to line up at multiple spots on the defensive line.”

Here at the Cup, we wish No. 9 the best of luck at the next level and can’t wait for him to represent the fam and get that money. In a legitimate way this time.