Despite the off-season, spring, AND fall camps being affected by COVID-19, college football is back, and the Ole Miss Rebels kick things off September 26th against the Florida Gators. Until then, we are going to dive into the position groups and what we expect from them during this 10-game abbreviated schedule.
The 2020 college football season is going to be equally as weird, wacky and wild as the first nine months of the year. While every play counts in a typical season, this unusual conference-only schedule puts an extra emphasis on making the most out of each opportunity for momentum and points. This notion of increased importance makes Special Teams that much more important.
Coach Blake Gideon takes over after leading the same group at Houston last season. In the one year that he was there, the Cougars finished No. 2 in the nation in punting yards, No. 1 in blocked punts, No. 1 in blocked kicks, No. 28 in punt return average and No. 8 in overall special teams efficiency. He has himself an electric factory in Oxford.
Here is a deeper look at the group:
Punter — Mac Brown
The Southeastern Conference’s No. 5 ranked punter from 2019 is back in his natural kicking style and feeling good after an offseason of work with his hometown specialist coach. Mac Brown has one goal in mind for this fall and he’s ready to stick opponents deep in their own territory. He also carries the most swagger at his position in the NCAA.
Place Kicker — Luke Logan
His gut-wrenching end to the Egg Bowl is in the past and Luke Logan is approaching the 2020 season with a clear mind and a fresh mentality.
“I’ve been an Ole Miss fan my whole life, so that in the Egg Bowl is the last thing I’d want to happen,” Logan said. “But through that all, it was an incredible teaching moment. This position that kickers are in, you get three or four opportunities a game. Whenever you don’t capitalize on that, it can really stick with you. I’m not doing my team justice if I’m still focusing on that. They deserve me to be out there focused every single day, ready to make the next kick—no matter where it is, when I’m called on, it’s got to be made.”
It’s no secret that Logan had his woes a season ago, but he is bringing a more urgent and calculated method to his practices. For him, and Brown as his holder, a miss in practice is analyzed with the same depth as a kick in-game. Note-taking and film study are common place with every repetition and Gideon is working with the pair to turn misses into makes.
Kickoff Specialist — Luke Logan, Casey Griffith
Logan tallied 25 kickoff attempts with four touchbacks in 2019, while Casey Griffith handled the kickoff duties against Memphis and Arkansas. Neither guy spent significant time in the role, as Spencer Cole carried the load. Cole is no longer on the roster and someone will have to step up. Every leg on the roster has been taking reps during fall camp, but Logan will take the lead for the season-opener against Florida. However, knowing that he didn’t handle the full responsibilities a season ago hints at a kickoff by committee this fall.
Long Snapper — Jack Propst
Returning for his redshirt senior season, Jack Propst will handle the long snapping duties for the fourth season in a row. He was a five-star snapper out of Brentwood Academy in Tennessee and has received All-SEC honors from Phil Steele in each of the last two years. Ole Miss had quite a few problems in 2019, but snapping wasn’t one of them.
Kick and Punt Returner — Jaylon Jones, Jerrion Ealy, Dannis Jackson
Lane Kiffin and Gideon are going to want to let their playmakers get the ball in space and go to work. Senior Jaylon Jones is back to full health and can rip opposing coverages apart.
Beside him on the return, Jerrion Ealy is a dynamic speedster and has taken a few kicks back to the house himself. He will be the favorite to return punts early in the year.
Sophomore wide receiver Dannis Jackson will also get his touches as a return man. All reports from camp suggest that the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Mississippi native is the fastest athlete on the roster. If he gets an open lane, he’s through it quicker than a hot knife through butter.
Reserves — Walker Thompson, Land Gebhart, John Bergeron, Jared Lawrence
Walker Thompson is the only other punter on the roster and will back up Brown. He is a redshirt freshman from Laurel, Mississippi. John Bergeron is a 4.5-star recruit from Louisiana who will more-than-likely fill Propst’s shoes after this year. He will go head-to-head with fellow freshman Jared Lawrence for the back up role. Land Gebhart, Cale Nation and Griffith will compete for the backup place kicker spot and kickoff opportunities. Nation is a redshirt freshman from Madison Central and Griffith will be a senior. Gebhart, the newest of the bunch, is a five-star kicker from Jackson Academy and has hit an in-game career-long field goal of 43 yards. He will also factor into the kickoff specialist mix, having booted the ball 78 yards off the tee in high school. Gebhart is the hopeful heir to the throne.