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If you think Ole Miss is bad now, wait for the offensive stars to leave next season

The Rebels lose most of their top offensive talent in 2019.

Mississippi v LSU Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images

At some point during Saturday night’s drubbing in Baton Rouge, you may have noticed that Ole Miss is not a good football team. The Rebels lost to LSU and Bama by a combined score of 107-23. They were also tied at halftime with both an FCS opponent and a Kent State team currently ranked 120th out of the 130 FBS teams.

Ole Miss is this bad despite fielding one of the most talented offenses in school history. Jordan Ta’amu is a very good quarterback. The three top receivers will all play in the League and two of them will probably be drafted in the first round. The offensive line is one of the most experienced and talented groups ever assembled in Oxford. Transfer running back Scotty Phillips has been a pleasant surprise and might actually be the most consistent offensive performer this season.

If you think the Rebels are bad now, wait until the majority of that offensive talent leaves this offseason.

After the 2018 season...

  • Ta’amu will be out of eligibility.
  • Senior wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge will be out of eligibility, while juniors A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf will almost certainly declare early for the NFL Draft.
  • Star left tackle Greg Little will also declare early, while starting center Sean Rawlings, starting guard Javon Patterson and key backup Jordan Sims will all be out of eligibility.

In case you didn’t tally that up, the Rebels will lose a starting quarterback, all three starting wideouts and three of five starting offensive linemen.

Ole Miss has piled up points and stats under offensive coordinator Phil Longo, but the overwhelming majority of that production has come against bad defenses. In the year and a half since he took over, Ole Miss has averaged 40.4 points per game and 8.0 yards per play against 11 opponents ranked outside the top 60 in defensive S&P+. Against six opponents ranked inside the top 20, those numbers plummet to 17.3 points per game and 5.2 yards per play.

If Longo can’t compete with top defenses while he has three NFL first rounders in his huddle, what’s gonna when they leave?

Here’s our best approximation of next year’s depth chart (new starters are shown in all caps).

2019 projected starters

Position Player Current year Career starts
Position Player Current year Career starts
RB Scottie Phillips Junior 5
TE Dawson Knox RS junior 14
LT Alex Givens RS junior 17
C ELI JOHNSON RS sophomore 0
RG Ben Brown RS freshman 5
RT TONY GRAY RS freshman 0

The replacements in that group don’t lack for talent. Matt Corral is one of the best quarterback prospects ever recruited to Oxford. Freshmen wideouts Elijah Moore and Miles Battle were both four-stars, as was projected O-line starter Bryce Matthews. Still, next year’s offense will likely take a major step back in both ability and experience. SB Nation’s Bill Connelly points out the statistical impact of returning production.

Over the last four years, 37 teams have returned at least 80 percent of their production based on current calculations; 32 of them (86 percent) improved, and 22 (59 percent) improved their adjusted scoring margin per game by at least six points.

Meanwhile, 56 teams returned under 50 percent of their production; 48 of them (86 percent) regressed, 27 (48 percent) by at least a touchdown.

Ole Miss will return well under 50 percent of its offensive production in 2019. That’s a sobering thought for Rebel fans who are hoping for improvement next season.