Spring Football Notes: Ole Miss

The Southeastern Conference compiled notes from each SEC football team at the conclusion of spring practice. Here is the compilation from the Ole Miss Rebels:

Ole Miss will host Alabama on October 10 in Oxford, Miss.

After an outstanding sophomore season, quarterback Jevan Snead now finds himself being mentioned with some of the nation's best returning quarterbacks. ESPN was on campus in April to include him in a five-part series the network is doing on top signal-callers back for 2009. The other four to be featured include the last two Heisman Trophy winners, Tim Tebow of Florida and Sam Bradford of Oklahoma, along with Colt McCoy of Texas and Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State.

Senior defensive end Marcus Tillman was selected to receive the 20th annual Chucky Mullins Courage Award and will wear a No. 38 patch on his jersey this fall in honor of the late Chucky Mullins, who had his Ole Miss career come to an end during the 1989 Homecoming game when he was paralyzed after making a tackle against Vanderbilt.

Senior offensive tackle John Jerry received the J. Richard Price Courage and Compassion Award, which goes each year to a rising senior offensive lineman. The award recognizes players who demonstrate an extraordinary courage and unusual compassion in their dedication to the team and to Ole Miss.

Sophomore running back Devin Thomas received the Jeff Hamm Memorial Award as the Most Improved Offensive Player of spring drills, while junior defensive lineman Jerrell Powe received the Most Improved Defensive Player award.

Running back Brandon Bolden, quarterback Nathan Stanley and running back Devin Thomas received Scholar-Athlete Awards from the Ole Miss Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.

With junior quarterback Jevan Snead returning as the starter, spring practice saw a spirited competition between senior Billy Tapp and redshirt freshman Nathan Stanley for the back-up role. After 15 practices, the duo will enter August practice dead even on the pre-season depth chart.

Finding a replacement for All-American left tackle Michael Oher was a major concentration of spring drills. Sophomore Bradley Sowell appears to have won the job. However, he could receive stiff competition this fall from the highly recruited Bobbie Massie, a 6-7, 345-pound incoming freshman.

After going 9-4, including a victory over Texas Tech in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, and finishing No. 14 in the final polls, one of the biggest challenges facing the Rebels in 2009 will be to handle all the pre-season hype surrounding the team. A number of early polls continue to tout Ole Miss as returning one of the nation's best teams after ending 2008 with six straight wins. The Rebels were also the only team to defeat national champ Florida.

Following the departure of Patrick Willis, the 2006 Butkus Award winner, the linebacker position took a major hit. However, heading into the 2009 season, Coach Houston Nutt feels that position can be a strength of the defense. Starters coming out of spring include senior Patrick Trahan, junior Jonathan Cornell and junior Allen Walker, with senior Lamar Brumfield expected to figure in the mix.

Once again deep at the running back position, sophomore Brandon Bolden emerged from spring competition to nail down the No. 1 spot, with last year's starter, Cordera Eason, a rising senior who finished second in rushing behind "Wild Rebel" Dexter McCluster, now No. 2 heading into the fall.

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