Inheriting a team that won just two games in Coach Houston Nutt's final season in Oxford, the Rebels opened with two victories to start the Freeze Era and ended his first season with a 41-24 victory over in-state rival Mississippi State followed by a 38-17 bowl victory over Pittsburgh to finish with a 7-6 record.
With all 11 starters returning on defense and eight back on offense, including quarterback Bo Wallace, there is no reason the Rebels shouldn't be stronger than they were last year.
Wallace sparked the turnaround with his skills at directing a hurry-up, no-huddle attack. He completed 63.9 passes for 2,994 yards and 22 touchdowns. This season he will be working to reduce his interceptions after throwing 17 last fall. Although he missed spring practice recovering from shoulder surgery, Wallace is expected to be ready to pick up where he left off last season.
Tailback Jeff Scott, who rushed for 846 yards on 196 carries, returns as a senior. He was the top rusher last year ahead of Wallace, who netted 390 yards on the ground.
Top Offensive Player
Donte Moncrief, a 6-3, 216 junior, is one of the SEC's top receivers. He caught 66 passes for 979 yards last season. Both numbers are the second most for a single season in Ole Miss history while his 10 touchdown receptions tied the school record. His potential to catch deep balls must be respected by opposing secondaries.
Denzel Nkemdiche is shown in action last season.
Top Defensive Player
Last season as a redshirt freshman, undersized linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche led the defense with 82 tackles while earning All-SEC honors. At 5-11, 203 pounds he made 13 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and intercepted three passes. He has a knack for being at the right place at the right time.
Schedule Tough Stretch
The Rebels face early challenges having to open on the road at Vanderbilt. After a home game vs. Southeast Missouri they have road tests at Texas, at Alabama and at Auburn before returning home for challenging contests vs. Texas A&M and LSU.
Newcomer to Watch
Robert Nkemdiche, Denzel's younger but not little brother, was Scout.com's top-rated defensive end prospect in the 2013 signee class. At 6-4 1/2, 285 pounds he has the size and athletic ability to contribute early.