One taught me love.
One taught me patience.
One taught me pain.
It’s actually all the same one though — Ole Miss football. Thanks for the highs and lows of the last ten years as my cardiologist thumbs over hundreds of dollars of billing from ya boi One Man to Beat.
The Sugar Bowl was ridiculously lit and amazing, and honestly, let’s do whatever we did la$t time to make that happen again. Totally worth it.
NCAA jail is not fun to be honest for sure, but to me, it was watching a lot of talent go underutilized that was far more difficult. The past is most assuredly behind us, and the future is uncertain as it normally is. However, it seems like the pop from the fan base when the coach walks in the room is 100 percent back and better than ever.
But let’s look at the best football Rebels of the last ten years. This is not necessarily the overall body of work, how someone fared in the pros, or even how one player was basically a cyborg but was injured too often to be the best version of himself. We stand by our list.
Quarterback — Chad Kelly
Look, I get it. Dr. Bo holds a special place in your heart. But, Chad Kelly is arguably the best quarterback in the history of Ole Miss football, and this is his team. He beat Alabama on the road, averaged more total yards per game (349.3) than a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2015, and helped Ole Miss win its first Sugar Bowl in 46 years. The guy was unstoppable when he was on and turned in a statistical season only rivaled by two Heisman winners.
Chad wasn’t just good, he was savage. He torched everyone, but when the lights were the brightest, he was fucking translucent. In games against nationally-ranked competition in 2015, Swag threw ten touchdown passes compared to just two interceptions, finishing his career third on the all-time passing yards list despite playing just 1.75 seasons in Oxford. He’s first in Ole Miss history in passing yards and touchdowns in a season and is third in career touchdowns. Oh, and did I mention that he is the only quarterback in Ole Miss history to top 4,000 yards in a season?
He may not have gotten the Rebels to Atlanta, but by God he did everything else.
Running Back — Jordan Wilkins
The Cordova, Tenn. is just one of six running backs in Ole Miss history to run for 1,000 yards in a season, and he was just as lethal in the passing game. He finished with over 1,200 yards from scrimmage in 2015 and had 10 total touchdowns on a really, really bad Ole Miss team. That year, he ran for 100+ in a game six times, including 110 and two touchdowns on the road against Mississippi State and is the only running back to top 1,000 yards this decade.
He could do it all. He had the strength to run between the tackles and the foot speed to take it the distance if you let him shake loose. And he had the arm to burn you deep if you didn’t respect it.
Wide Receiver — AJ Brown
The Mayor is an institution for the nWo. He’s first all-time in receptions in a season, single game, yards in a career, yards in a season, yards in a single game, touchdowns in a season, and is third all-time in career receptions, and fifth all-time in career touchdowns. Whether he was in the slot or on the outside, the Starkville, Miss. native was a mismatch.
He tortured bigger defensive backs, big and small, and could run away from just about anyone in the open field. He went over 1,000 yards twice during his time in Oxford and had 17 of his 19 touchdowns in his final two seasons. Arguably one of the most beloved Rebels for his swagger and charismatic smile, AJ is one that will go down as one of the best to ever do it in Oxford.
Wide Receiver — Laquon Treadwell
Speaking of one of the best to ever do it and charismatic smiles, Quon was THE No. 1 before AJ was. Top-five in just about every receiver category in Rebel history, Laquon was one of the biggest recruiting gets in Ole Miss history and he more than backed it up on the field. As a freshman, he had 936 yards receiving and five touchdowns, hauling in 72(!) passes from Bo Wallace in an offense that counted on him for a lot.
But, one of the most endearing things about Treadwell and the reason he is so beloved by the Ole Miss faithful is how he battled back from a devastating injury in 2014 to turn in one of the best regular seasons a Rebel has ever had. He broke his tibia and dislocated his ankle vs. Auburn, but he fought back with a career-best 82 passes for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Now THAT is hitting the Quon.
Wide Receiver — Donte Moncrief
Another fan favorite, Moncrief was instrumental in making Ole Miss football fun again after the dark ages of the end of Houston Nutt’s tenure. Much like Treadwell, Donte did a lot in just three seasons in Oxford. Most notably, torching two NFL defensive backs in the 2012 Egg Bowl for 173 yards and not one, not two, but three touchdowns, sparking the “Feed Moncrief” movement.
Moncrief was a physical mismatch much like the other receivers on this list. He never broke 1,000 yards in a season, but he had 900+ yards in two seasons, cementing his legacy at Ole Miss. Donte was also one of the most feel good stories in recruiting as well, going from a MS/AL All-Star Game snub to a now five-year NFL veteran.
Tight End — Evan Engram
Was there ever a doubt? The guy transcended the position and was practically unguardable during his time in Oxford. The Georgia native was a focal point of the 2014 offense as a true sophomore, catching 38 passes for 662 yards and then even more of a problem for opposing defensive coordinators in 2016. That year, all he did was snag 65(!) receptions for 926 yards and eight touchdowns.
Despite not winning the John Mackey Award for best tight end in the country, he did win the Conerly Trophy given to the best college football player in the state of Mississippi. The hidden gem from Hillgrove dominated the middle of the field and had a knack for the acrobatic in one-on-one situations. This was probably the easiest pick of the team.
Left Tackle — Laremy Tunsil
Never mind. This one was the easiest.
Tunsil, one of the biggest signees in Ole Miss history, dominated the left side of the offensive line in the SEC for three seasons. He earned SEC All-Freshman honors and first-team Freshman All-American honors after allowing just ONE sack in his first year in Oxford. Much like Laquon, he is revered by fans for battling back from a devastating lower leg injury only to become one of the greatest players in Rebel history.
If it weren’t for Cam Newton, Tunsil would easily be the best college football player I have ever seen in person. Out of every single game I’ve watched Laremy play in a Rebel uniform, I can only remember Auburn’s Carl Lawson getting the best of him in a one-on-one match-up. Hell, Nick Saban and Alabama quit trying to get around him and he made No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett look pedestrian in their battles.
The guy deserves a statue or a building or a school named after him in Oxford, and there are several NFL front offices that are kicking themselves now for passing on arguably the best offensive lineman in the NFL today because he smokes the weed.
Left Guard — Javon Patterson
A highly-rated recruit from Petal, Miss., Patterson was a huge part of the Rebel running attack with Wilkins and Jaylen Walton. He was incredibly versatile up front as he moved around a lot, helping when injuries were an issue, and never missed a beat. He started 42 games as a Rebel and was drafted in the 7th round in 2019 after sticking around a sinking program when others would’ve tucked it and run to a Big 10 school.
Center — Sean Rawlings
Speaking of versatility, Mr. Rawlings was the poster child. He went from center to guard to starting at right tackle in his first SEC game on the road against top-five Alabama. Not too shabby. After a redshirt year, he did anything and everything for Ole Miss and was one of the anchors for an offensive line from 2015-2018 that featured some NFL-caliber talent.
Right Guard — Bobby Massie
The Hargrave Military Academy product was larger than life and a huge win on the recruiting trail for Ole Miss and Houston Nutt. He started every game in 2010 and 2011 and was a huge part of Brandon Bolden finishing top-five in career rushing yards. Despite playing on some piss poor teams, Massie was a rock at offensive tackle and still playing in the NFL today.
Right Tackle — Greg Little
The Laremy Tunsil Effect helped lure the five-star tackle from Texas to Oxford, and Ole Miss fans are happy that it did. Little, although not as proficient as his predecessor, was borderline elite when he was at his best. He was a two-time All-SEC selection and was named 2nd-team All-American. The Allen, Tex. native was a bookend tackle his entire tenure for the Rebels and was a force from jumpstreet, a difficult thing to do as an offensive lineman in the SEC.
Defensive line — Robert Nkemdiche
The former No. 1 overall player in the country may not have been the box score superstar people expected him to be, but he affected every single game he played in. Teams schemed around him, double and sometimes triple-teamed him, freeing up teammates to make plays. The Grayson, Ga. athlete was a physical specimen who, when he was on, was unblockable.
Nkemdiche may have only finished his career with 19 tackles for loss and seven sacks, but he chipped in on offense (three career touchdowns) and was a delight to watch when he was in the zone.
Defensive line — Breeland Speaks
This one was tough as Benito Jones deserves to be on this team, but Speaks was a lot like Nkemdiche in the effect that when he was healthy and in the zone, he was a nuisance for offensive linemen. He played in every game as a redshirt freshman and after somewhat of a disappointing second year, he destroyed opposing offensive game plans in his final year in a Rebel uniform.
In 2017, the Year of the Wave, Speaks made 67 tackles and had eight tackles for loss and seven sacks, earning him second-team All-SEC honors.
Defensive line — Issac Gross
Speaking of making people’s lives miserable, the “undersized” Batesville, Miss. native was an absolute force on the interior his entire Ole Miss career. As a true freshman, Gross dominated as a nose guard, making 40 total tackles and collecting 10(!) tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
What did he do for an encore? Just 34 more tackles, nine tackles for loss, and 2.5 more sacks. The last two years of his career bridged by a medical redshirt saw him make 65 total tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss. Despite standing just 6’1 on a good day, the South Panola legend used his elite quickness and bad ass attitude to embarrass opposing centers on his way to finishing in the top-10 in history in tackles for loss (29.5).
Defensive line — DJ Jones
The Greenville, S.C. native only played two seasons in Oxford, but he made them count. The Last Chance U alum played in 25 games, totaling 70 tackles, 8.5 sacks, and one interception. The blue chip recruit coming out of junior college was a prized signee for the Rebels, and he was just as coveted on the defensive line for the Rebels.
Jones had great athleticism for a defensive tackle and, like Gross, had some impressive quickness that usually put offensive linemen on their heels and scrambling for answers.
Linebacker — Marquis Haynes
North Carolina and Louisville had their shot with the school’s all-time sack leader, but the Rebels were able to sign him - the rest is history. He finished his Ole Miss career with 172 total tackles, 47.5 tackles for loss, and a school-best 32 sacks.
His best year was 2015 when he finished the year with 16.5 tackles for loss and an Ole Miss single season record 10 sacks. Haynes, who played defensive end/outside linebacker in Dave Wommack’s 3-3-5 scheme thrived in the open field with a running start against offensive tackles. His footspeed was elite, and he had an arsenal of moves tormenting tackles and quarterbacks alike for four years.
Linebacker — CJ Johnson
No one played harder or with more edge than the Philadelphia, Miss. native. The former five-star linebacker somewhat shocked the recruiting world when he signed with the Rebels over the favored in-state Bulldogs and from then on he took pride in making Mississippi State’s life hell.
In 2012, he had 55 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks on a team that ignited a resurgence in the program when it was desperately trying to crawl out from the Houston nutt-sized hole it was in. His leadership and swagger was a fixture for the Landsharks defense, helping him finish his career with 180 total tackles and 27.5 tackles for a loss.
Linebacker — Demarquis Gates
He may not have ever played on a team worth a damn in his latter years, but Mr. Gates was an absolute tackling machine for the Rebels. After collecting 155 total tackles in his sophomore and junior years, he posted a senior campaign for the books, making 114 total tackles and collecting 10 tackles for loss.
The Georgia native had quite the four years in Oxford, making 282 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, and forcing three fumbles. All he did after his time at Ole Miss was lead the now-defunct AAF in tackles.
Defensive back — Mike Hilton
Another one of those dudes who just made plays and was everywhere on the football field. The Chucky Mullins Award winner played everything from corner to safety to nickel to WHO THE HELL IS THIS GUY SOMEONE BLOCK HIM. The 2015 All-SEC selection was a key cog in the Landshark machine, making 25.5 tackles for loss, 26 pass breakups, and snagging six interceptions as a Rebel.
It’s hard to put onto paper what Hilton did in an Ole Miss uniform. He was the epitome of intangibles and is still surprising people to this day for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Defensive back — Senquez Golson
The former two-sport Rebel is the only unanimous All-America selection on this team and by God he earned it. In 2014 when the Landsharks were at their best, Golson tied a school record by hauling in 10 interceptions. None bigger than the one that sealed the upset over No. 1 Alabama, out-jumping O.J. Howard in the end zone.
Senquez, famous for telling people “if you don’t want to come to Ole Miss, don’t take a visit” has been enshrined into the school’s Hall of Fame and he finished his Rebel career with 15 interceptions, good for 4th all-time, tied with the late, great Todd Sandroni. The 5’9 super athlete was a fan favorite for his acrobatic play-making ability and his Hollywood grin.
Defensive back — Cody Prewitt
The only thing more impressive than Prewitt’s ability to play centerfield was his All-American lettuce under the helmet. The Bay Springs, Miss. native was a local legend in high school and his time at Ole Miss only cemented that. Prewitt made 247 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 12 interceptions, and had 13 pass breakups in his four years in Oxford, good enough for first-team All-SEC selections in 2013 and 2014. The Associated Press also deemed him worthy of first-team All-American honors in 2013.
Much like Johnson, Prewitt was a demanding leader on the field and a dude who straight up cut you in half if you came across the middle of the field. Often called the leader of the Landshark defense, Cody was another crowd favorite during the Rebels run in 2014 to a No. 4 College Football Playoff ranking and its best start since the 1960’s.
Defensive back — Tony Conner
If not for an unfortunate injury, the South Panola legend may have gone down as one of the best defensive backs in Ole Miss history. Conner told Nick Saban thanks, but no thanks, and signed with the Rebels in 2013, sparking the begin of an illustrious career. In 2014, Tony played close to the line of scrimmage as a strong safety, much to opposing offense’s chagrin. That year he collected 69 total tackles, nine tackles for loss, and an interception.
The aforementioned injury slowed him down, but he still finished his Ole Miss career with 193 total tackles and 21.5 tackles for loss. The former five-star signee, when 100%, was a delight to watch roam the second level. It will always be a case of “what might have been” but, boy was he still fun to watch.
Kicker/punter — Gary Wunderlich
What else is there to say? He’s the most accurate kicker in school history and he started a fight in a game against Memphis. case closed. His percentage (83.1), total made field goals (64) and 2016 season are still to this day the best in school history. Kickers don’t get much attention until they’re bad. Gary was steady and an assassin from deep.
Gary also punted his first three years in Oxford and, well, he was really, really good at that, too. In 2016, he punted 21 times for 917(!) yards, good enough for a 43.7 average. It’s absolutely a crime that Wunderlich didn’t win the 2016 Lou Groza Award with his 95.7 percent make rate (best in school history), but he could’ve made a case for the Ray Guy Award that year, too.
Kickoff return — Jaylen Walton and Jaylon Jones
Walton may have only had one kick return for a touchdown in his career, but he averaged 21 yards a return for his career and had 643 yards as a true freshman in 2012. The Memphis, Tenn. native was brilliant at hiding behind the wedge and bursting through a hole with no regard for his own safety, often leading to big returns and setting up the offense with immaculate field position.
Jones returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in his career as a Rebel and much like Walton, the Allen. Tex. native was aggressive and wasted little time getting upfield. A torn ACL slowed him down, but he was electric in 2017 and 2018 with the football in his hands. His speed and vision were two things that are hard to impossible to teach and in an era when more and more kickers boom it out the back of the end zone, Jones turned the kickoff into must-see TV.
Punt return — Jeff Scott
The Sunshine State Scooter narrowly edged out Jesse Grandy here, but for good reason. His 73-yard run for a touchdown in the 2013 opener against Vanderbilt might be one of the best plays of the decade in the SEC, but he was equally as impressive in the return game. As a sophomore, he averaged 17.3 yards a return, totaling 138 yards, and running one to the house.
Scott made most of his hay in the backfield (2,297 career rushing yards) but he was lightning in a bottle when standing all alone waiting on a punt from the opposing team.
Y’all, this one was tough. Comment or tweet @redcuprebellion with your all-decade team.