2013 Football Opponent Preview: Ole Miss

A preview of the Ole Miss football team is featured in our series looking at Auburn's 2013 opponents.

Auburn's game five opponent, Ole Miss, was the surprise team of the 2012 SEC football season. Heading into his second year as head coach of the Rebels, Hugh Freeze has the task of satisfying a fan base that is expecting more this fall.

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.

Helping his cause will be a strong wide receiver corps featuring Donte Moncrief, Ja-Mes Logan and Vincent Sanders.

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.

Defensively, linebackers Denzel Nkemdiche and Mike Marry are key returnees along with safety Cody Prewitt.

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.

Washington State Preview

Arkansas State Preview

Mississippi State Preview

LSU Preview

Order the 2013 Inside the Auburn Football Tigers Guide

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories