SEC Preview: Ole Miss

We continue our SEC preview with the MSU Bulldogs' slightly less inept in-state rival, the Ole Miss Rebels. Third year Head Coach Ed Orgeron has overhauled the depth chart as he shapes the team with his recruits.

In 2006, the Rebels played more true freshmen and 2006 signees than any other team in the country. While the young team took its knocks early and often, by season's end they had some solid contributors and many at key positions. This season brings another batch of new players to the frontlines and hopes that with more experience, Ole Miss will soon be competing for the SEC West once again. The schedule won't do them any favors with Florida rotating onto the SEC East slate alongside trips to Athens and Nashville. However, games against Alabama, Arkansas, LSU and a solid Missouri team are all in Oxford.

Head Coach:
Ed Orgeron, 7-16 in 2 years
Offensive Coordinator: Dan Werner
Defensive Coordinator: John Thompson

Projected Depth Chart (returning starters in bold):

QB Seth Adams Sr.
Brent Schaeffer Sr.

RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis Sr.
Bruce Hall Sr.

FB Jason Cook Jr.
Reggie Hicks Fr.

WR Marshay Green So.
Dexter McCluster So.

WR Mike Wallace Jr.
A.J. Jackson Jr.

TE Robert Lane Sr.
Robert Hough Sr.

RT Maurice Miller Jr.
Marcus Cohen Sr.

RG John Jerry So.
Mark Jean-Louis Jr.

C Corey Actis Sr.
Thomas Eckers Sr.

LG Reid Neely So.
Don Mosley Fr.

LT Michael Oher Jr.
Marcus Cohen Sr.

DE Marcus Tillman So.
Kentrell Lockett Fr.

NT Peria Jerry Jr.
Daverin Geralds So.

DT Jeremy Garrett Sr.
Brandon Jenkins Sr.

DE Greg Hardy So.
Chris Bowers Jr.

SLB Jonathan Cornell So.
Allen Walker Fr.

MLB Tony Fein Jr.
Jamie Phillips Jr.

WLB Antonio Turner Jr.
Ashlee Palmer Jr.

SS Jamarca Sanford Jr.
Markeith Summers Fr.

FS Kendrick Lewis So.
Jamal Harvey So.

LCB Dustin Mouzon Jr.
Terrell Jackson Jr.

RCB Cassius Vaughn So.
Nate Banks Sr.

Special Teams
K Joshua Shene So.

P Rob Park Jr.

KR Marshay Green So.

PR Marshay Green So.

Offensive Breakdown:

Key Returners: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, LT Michael Oher

Key Losses: LG Andrew Wicker

Key Newcomers: 5* JUCO WR A.J. Jackson, 4* WR Roderick Davis

Nine starters return to the offense but after finishing last in the SEC in most statistical categories, there's room for a great deal of improvement. On top of that, there's a degree of uncertainty on who will be under center. Brent Schaeffer started every game in 2006 but due to poor performance was replaced by back-up Seth Adams in the second half of the Rebels' final two games. Adams, a former walk-on, maintained his success through spring practices and won the starting job. Whether he can fend off Schaeffer in the fall remains to be seen but it certainly has created quite a bit of controversy. Ole Miss' strongest position is running back where they have three solid contributors in BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bruce Hall and highly-touted youngster Cordera Eason.

Two of the Rebels' promising young players lead the receiving corps in Dexter McCluster and Marshay Green. They could be joined by 5* JUCO wideout A.J. Jackson but it's not known yet if he'll be academically eligible. The Rebels also have a solid but underused target at tight end in converted-quarterback Robert Lane.

On the offensive line, four starters return for line coach Art Kehoe's second season with the team. They're anchored by mammoth left tackle Michael Oher , who's already getting some All-American mention. Sophomore right guard John Jerry has also shown a lot promise.

Defensive Breakdown:

Key Returners: DE Marcus Tillman, NT Peria Jerry

Key Losses: MLB Patrick Willis, LCB Trumaine McBride

Key Newcomers: 4* SLB Chris Strong, 4* JUCO MLB Tony Fein

The heart and soul of the defense was lost in the departure of Butkus Award-winning middle linebacker Patrick Willis. The front seven hopes to be revitalized with the return of veteran defensive tackles Peria Jerry and Jeremy Garrett, who both missed a good bit of the 2006 season with injuries. JUCO middle linebacker Tony Fein takes over in Willis' place and will be flanked by Jonathan Cornell and Antonio Turner. Defensive ends Marcus Tillman and Greg Hardy both performed admirably as true freshman starters in 2006 and they're expected to be even bigger contributors this year.

The secondary has been completely re-tooled with four new starters, though senior Nate Banks will return as a reserve. The coaching staff has a lot of confidence in sophomores Cassius Vaughn and Kendrick Lewis, but some growing pains are sure to arise.

Jamarca Sanford, a former linebacker, has coverted to start at strong safety.

Special Teams Breakdown:

The Rebels returner both their starting kicker in sophomore Joshua Shene , who earned freshman All-America honors, and punter in junior Rob Park. Green and McCluster will once again handle return duties where they'll provide more opportunities for big plays.

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