Enough of the NOA talk. Enough of recruiting violations and bowl bans. Ole Miss spring football practice is here, which means, at leas temporarily, we get to discuss actual football.
Because while the Rebels won’t be playing in a bowl game in 2017, their talented roster means they could still win a bunch of damn games. The offensive line returns all but one from last year’s two-deep, Shea Patterson could emerge from the offseason as one of the SEC’s best quarterbacks and his receiving corps is jam-packed with elite athletes. And while the D-line has depth issues, its front-end talent could be among the best in the conference.
Hugh Freeze still has plenty to figure out, of course, starting with linebacker. And while the Rebels have plenty of young talent in the secondary, they still need to get them in the right seats, as new defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff is fond of saying.
Below, we’ve used practice reports from the Ole Miss Spirit to piece together a spring depth chart, using educated guesses to fill in the gaps. This is our best estimate of the two-deep if the season started today, not a projection for the opening game in September. That means we’re not including currently injured players or signees who haven’t reported to campus yet.
|Ray Ray Smith
There are some injured guys missing from this chart.
Two of the Rebels’ top three cornerbacks are sitting out all of spring camp. Jalen Julius fractured his arm on the first day of practice, though his six-week recovery period puts him back in time for fall camp. The projection is cloudier for Kendarius Webster, who shredded his knee in a gruesome play against Florida State last season. Webster told the Spirit’s Chuck Rounsaville last week that he expects to play in 2017, though Rounsaville noted that Webster’s recovery time had been previously estimated as 18 months—which would keep him out of next season entirely.
Running back Eric Swinney, who also tore his ACL in last year’s opener, is progressing at a quicker pace. Rounsaville noted that Swinney “did more in practice than we were anticipating, actually running some offensive plays and cutting with the ball in his hands.” Jacob Mathis, who would otherwise appear as the No. 2 tight end, is out with a broken foot.
The secondary is anyone’s guess at this point.
There’s going to be a lot of musical chairs before McGriff gets everyone in the right seat. The injuries to Julius and Webster have forced last year’s starting safety, Myles Hartsfield, to move at least temporarily to cornerback.
You’ll notice that the huskie position filled by Tony Conner for the last four years isn’t listed on our depth chart. McGriff has changed the base defense to a 4-3, though he’ll run plenty of 4-2-5 against spread teams. If we had to venture a guess for the star position (which is what McGriff has renamed the huskie), it’d be senior A.J. Moore.
McGriff will have to wait until fall to work with his full compliment of linebacker reinforcements, a group that includes potential starters Josh Clarke and Mohamed Sanogo. For now, last year’s on-again, off-again starter Detric Bing-Dukes is running with the ones at Mike and JUCO newcomer Brenden Williams is the top man at one of the outside spots. DeMarquis Gates reportedly hasn’t yet joined team drills as he works his way back from offseason knee surgery, though we still have him on our chart since he hasn’t been ruled out of camp completely. Expect Breon Dixon, the four-star early enrollee, to get plenty of work in the meantime.