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Countdown to Ole Miss football: The 40s and Mount Rushmore

To run out the clock this week, we turn to a slab of granite in southwest South Dakota.

Syndication: SiouxFalls Briana Sanchez / Argus Leader

In October of 1941, after 14 years of blowing up granite and carving the side of a mountain, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial project came to an end.

However, the sculpting didn’t stop because the faces of the presidents were deemed to be complete and perfect. Instead, it stopped because, in an American construction tradition, the money ran out.

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s* initial plan called for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln to be carved in granite from the waist up. Borglum died in March of 1941, so it’s unclear if he knew the project was ending prior to torso development, but his son, Lincoln, who took over for him**, would’ve certainly received the bad news.

*Kind of a problematic guy!

**Nepotism: Another great American tradition!

Also going on in October of 1941, other than World War II, was the fourth season of Harry J. Mehre’s tenure as Ole Miss football coach. When Mount Rushmore construction officially stopped on October 31st, Ole Miss went out and beat Marquette 12-6 in Milwaukee* the next day.

*Ole Miss in Milwaukee in any era is a scenario that intrigues me. My point being, an early season road trip to play Wisconsin in Madison should be explored. It would still be one billion degrees in the South, and we could all catch a Brewers game on the way, play some golf, and keep the Miller Lite flowing in ideal temperatures. Many are saying this is the way.

Given that we are now 43 days away from the start of Ole Miss football in 2023 and need to tie everything in to the previous four paragraphs, our exercise this week is to establish the Mount Rushmore of Ole Miss football positions in the modern era.

By modern era, I mean 1992* and beyond. Nothing against Hot Rod Bojangles or whomever else played before the majority of people reading this were alive, but we have to narrow the player pool. Feel free to start your own pre-1992 Mount Rushmore in the comments or wherever else.

*You could argue the modern era didn’t start until the late 1990s or early 2000s, but I’m marking the SEC expansion to 12 teams.

I am very (VERY) aware that what follows will be universally accepted as gospel truth, with no objections. Let me say a preemptive you’re welcome for getting everything right.

Note: The four players for each set below are not ranked within the set.

Quarterback Mount Rushmore

In a wild turn of events, this is maybe the easiest group to rate. Those four guys hold the top spots in career total yards, career passing yards, and single season passing attempts, while also being in the mix for leading every other passing and total offense stat in school history.

Running Back Mount Rushmore

  • John Avery
  • Deuce McAllister
  • Dexter McCluster
  • Brandon Bolden

And now we embrace the debate. The first three are no-doubters because they all possessed the ability to turn a defensive coordinator’s face purple with rage every time they touched the ball.

Avery’s numbers trail the others because he only played for two season, but I submit:

This next video has some of his runs as a pro, but please take note of another angle of the run against Arkansas above, as well as the runs against LSU (1:02) and Tennessee (1:36).

Hence the term “John Avery Fast.”

As for the fourth member, it feels more like dealer’s choice. Statistically, Joe Gunn should be on the side of our figurative mountain.

He’s first all-time in career carries, second in rushing yards, second in 100-yard games (only Deuce is ahead of him in those two categories), and top five in rushing touchdowns. Obviously, a good college running back, but one who was more of a grinder* living on volume.

*Not for his state, but an actual grinder.

Gunn’s four-year yards per attempt average was 4.4. Compare that to:

  • Brandon Bolden - 5.3 yds/att (never below 4.8)
  • Dou Innocent - 4.7
  • BenJarvis Green-Ellis - 4.6
  • Jaylen Walton - 5.1
  • Jordan Wilkins - 6.3
  • Scottie Phillips - 5.3

Bolden finished with 144 fewer carries than Gunn, but he only trailed him in career yards by 145. Throw in 27 rushing touchdowns to Gunn’s 22, and he gets the nod on the mountain.

But again, arguments can be made for multiple players, but I am picking the one that’s RIGHT.

Wide Receiver Mount Rushmore

  • Chris Collins
  • Laquon Treadwell
  • A.J. Brown
  • Elijah Moore

Much like the quarterback mountain, these four guys are on top of almost all receiving statistical categories. I am here for arguments that Shay Hodge or Donte Moncrief should replace Chris Collins. I will offer no objections other than I am biased toward the guy who was Eli Manning’s only dangerous receiving threat (DEEP SIGH).

Tight End Mount Rushmore

  • Evan Engram
  • Rufus French
  • Doug Zeigler
  • Kris Mangum

I want to get it on the official record that I, for one, did not like Rufus French leaving early for the NFL.

Offensive Tackle Mount Rushmore

  • Laremy Tunsil
  • Michael Oher
  • Greg Little
  • Todd Wade

Let’s see here, two of these guys are in the NFL (one is the best left tackle in football). Wade played 9 seasons in the league, and Oher checks in at 8 seasons. I would classify that as #pretty #good.

Interior Offensive Lineman Mount Rushmore

  • John Jerry
  • Chris Spencer
  • Terrence Metcalf
  • Tutan Reyes

That would be 39 years of NFL experience among these four. On a personal note, I remember the first time I saw John Jerry walk through The Grove. He was, and probably still is, the largest human being I have ever seen in person.

As an aside, I hear Terrence Metcalf’s son is a pretty good football player too. We should check his interest in playing for Ole Miss.

Defensive End Mount Rushmore

  • Sam Williams
  • Derrick Burgess
  • Marquis Haynes
  • C.J. Johnson

If Greg Hardy weren’t [redacted rant on the advice of counsel], he would be up there. But his behavior [counsel stepping in again because you’re not listening, Gray].

On a positive note, the first three guys were elite terrors off the edge. Let us hope the 2023 defense has an edge terror, which was desperately missed last year.

Interior Defensive Linemen Mount Rushmore

  • Kendrick Clancy
  • Benito Jones
  • Peria Jerry
  • Jesse Mitchell

Finishing just off the granite is Tim Bowens, a defensive tackle who played one season in 1993 for Billy Brewer’s last team. Bowens played in nine games and recorded:

  • 53 total tackles
  • 6 sacks
  • 5 tackles for loss
  • 1 INT
  • 1 fumble recovery

He left after one season (good call!), and the Dolphins drafted in the first round. Had he played in all 11 games in 1994, he would likely own the sack record for defensive tackles. But if he had stayed in 1994 to play for a team on probation, someone should’ve been arrested.

Linebacker Mount Rushmore

  • Patrick Willis
  • Abdul Jackson
  • Cassius Ware
  • Dewayne Dotson

Given Ole Miss’ linebacker history in the last, oh, 20+ years, having three early 90s guys on the mountain checks out!

One thing to remember is th-

[music blaring from speaker]


Lmao. Outright obliteration.

Of note, Abdul Jackson is the player who picked up the fumble and ran it back for a touchdown.

Double of note, Ole Miss led the country in total defense in 1993 and finished [squints] 5-6 (3-5 SEC), which was later changed to 6-5 (4-4) because Alabama was forced to forfeit all their games in 1993. Thanks, I hate it.

Corner Mount Rushmore

  • Ken Lucas
  • Senquez Golson
  • Alundis Brice
  • Von Hutchins

Just another four guys who played multiple years in the NFL. Nbd.

Even more impressive, Lucas was a receiver for most of his first two years at Ole Miss, then moved to corner where he earned All-American honors in his senior year.

Safety Mount Rushmore

  • Johnny Dixon
  • Syniker Taylor
  • Mike Hilton
  • Cody Prewitt

First, for the uninitiated, Johnny Dixon:

And this, even though it’s on offense, is obligatory when Syniker Taylor gets mentioned.

Kicker Mount Rushmore

  • Gary Wunderlich (83.1 FG made percentage)
  • Jonathan Nichols* (76.8)
  • Les Binkley (79.3)
  • Joshua Shene (76.0)

Maybe it’s general trauma from the Orgeron years, but I did not see Joshua Shene making an appearance. Of note, Caden Costa, he of year-long suspension acclaim, had an 82.4 make percentage in 2021.

*Gray from maybe even five years ago would’ve disqualified him solely for missing the two short field goals in the 2003 LSU game. I mention this because I want to point out PERSONAL GROWTH AND HEALING.

Punter Mount Rushmore

  • Mac Brown
  • Tyler Campbell
  • Cody Ridgeway
  • Gary Wunderlich

We at Red Cup Rebellion dot com are always on Team Never Punt, but if you have to, let Mac Brown and Gary Wunderlich do it.