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Ole Miss might not be as bad as you think next season

The Rebels lose a lot of talent after this season, but talented youngsters provide hope.

Josh McCoy-Ole Miss Athletics

In the wake of the LSU thrashing, Red Cup managing editor Jeff Gray wrote a sobering piece detailing all of the key offensive players Ole Miss will lose in 2019. It was titled “If you think Ole Miss is bad now, wait until next season.”

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.

Yes, that’s a lot of talent and production stripped out of an offense that’s already struggling against good defenses this season. But I’m here to argue that thanks to a host of talented youngsters and returning vets, things might not be as dire as they seem for 2019.

The nWo will reload quickly.

Despite losing the three top pass catchers to the NFL, the cupboard is far from bare for wide receivers coach Jacob Peeler. Braylon Sanders, Elijah Moore, and Miles Battle return and should be poised to take over in stride. I understand they’ll be replacing arguably the best receiver in the program’s history in Brown, a genetic freak in Metcalf, and a burner who has played for four straight years in Lodge, but there’s plenty of talent and then some.

Sanders and Moore have played plenty in 2018 and shown significant flashes. Sanders came on strong at the end of 2017 and has carried that over to this season, contributing from the slot as a reliable possession receiver. Moore, despite not getting a ton of touches, should have fans excited for a potential dynamo in the slot. He brings a completely different skill set to the receiver room that hasn’t been there for some time. And finally, you’ve got Battle, a former four-star receiver that is redshirting this season but was wanted by the likes of Auburn, Cal, LSU, and Oregon, among others.

Oh, and did I mention that you are bringing in potential instant impact dudes in Dannis Jackson, Jadon Jackson, Jonathan Mingo, and Javonta Payton?

The receivers room will be just fine.

Matt Corral is here. And there will be fireworks.

The third highest-ranked quarterback (not counting Eli Manning since recruiting rankings weren’t out then) to ever sign with Ole Miss, the high school All-American appears to be destined for a freshman redshirt this season. He should be chomping at the bit to prove himself in 2019.

There’s a lot of Chad Kelly in Corral, who has athleticism and the arm talent to dazzle in whatever offensive scheme he finds himself in next season (we’ll find out whether offensive coordinator Phil Longo is still around soon enough). Corral should be able to use his legs as a weapon in a spread, read-option style offense, or he could be a dangerous weapon using his cannon of a right arm in a more traditional pro-style spread. Either or, you’ve got to like what Matt brings to the table.

Also, it doesn’t hurt that Scottie Phillips, the JUCO transfer running back who’s emerged as arguably the most consistent offensive threat this season will be back to provide Corral with a ground attack.

The front seven on both sides returns key contributors.

Greg Little, Javon Patterson, Sean Rawlings, and Jordan Sims will be gone. That will be tough to replace.

The good news is that current starting right guard Ben Brown and current starting right tackle Alex Givens will be back. Replacing the departures will be up to a number of returners and 2019 recruits. Royce Newman has been involved in 2018 in specific packages, Tony Gray is a former Under Armour All-American who has to be eager to prove himself, and Bryce Mathews is a former four-star in his own right. The wild card is 2019 four-star commit Darius Thomas, ranked the No. 22 offensive tackle in the country. He could be an immediate starter if he chooses to hold firm with his verbal pledge and sign.

The defensive line loses key contributors Victor Evans, Markel Winters, and Ross Donelly but returns potential All-SEC performers Benito Jones and Josiah Coatney. Barring some surprise, the Rebels will return 13 defensive linemen who have put in playing time in the last couple of years.

Ryder Anderson, Charles Wiley, Qaadir Sheppard, and Austrian Robinson will be back with another year of experience. Tariqious Tisdale is finally on campus and showing flashes. And you have to like the idea of former four-star Jalen Cunningham manning the middle at 361(!) pounds.

Oh, and four-star JUCO commit Sam Williams will be on campus as well. The No. 6 junior college player in the nation will be a Day 1 starter.

The secondary will be battle-tested by 2019. And hey some impact guys are here, too.

Losing C.J. Moore, Jaylon Jones, and Montrell Custis to season-ending injuries this year hurt. But Jones and Custis will be back next year, plus guys like Keidron Smith and C.J. Miller have picked up meaningful snaps in their absence in 2018. Also back will be Myles Hartsfield and Jalen Julius, two defensive backs who have been around the block in the SEC.

The most intriguing thing about the secondary next season will be the arrival of two JUCO commits. Jones County’s Jamar Richardson and Jonathan Haynes are both ranked in the top 60 of 247Sports Junior College rankings and should push for immediate playing time. Not to mention that the Rebs have held off Georgia and Notre Dame to secure a commitment from three-star Deantre Prince, who might find the field early because of his explosive skill set.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be some blow back due to attrition on both sides of the ball. But the replacements aren’t chumps. These types of seasons can be fun and enjoyable if you have perspective. Yes, there will be some lows, but there should also be some highs.