Ole Miss Rebels
2008 Record: 9-4 (5-3 SEC, 2nd - West)
Head Coach: Houston Nutt (9-4, 1 year; 120-74 overall, 16 years)
Returning Starters: 16: 7 offense, 8 defense, kicker
Leaders on Each Side: Offense: QB, Jevan Sneed Defense: S, Kendrick Lewis
Houston Nutt’s first season on the sidelines in Oxford was one to remember, seeing the Rebel reels off nine wins, which included six straight victories to end the season.
Quarterback Jevan Sneed was one of the biggest reasons for the turnaround, throwing for 2,762 yards and 26 touchdowns during his first season with the Rebels.
Nutt also returns all four of his runners in the backfield, a unit which combined for 17 scores in 2008. Dexter McCluster and Shea Hodge highlight the returning starters at wide receiver, with McCluster also playing the lead role in Nutt’s “Wild Rebel” direct-snap formation.
Despite the loss of All-American tackle Peria Jerry, the Rebels are strong once more on the defensive side. If they can do a better job defending the pass, expect the Rebels to continue their winning ways.
Several stars are back from a team that downed Texas Tech in Dallas last January, which gives the Rebels a good reason to believe that they can contend for the title in the SEC West.
Jevan Snead – 6’3”, 215, Jr.
Billy Tapp – 6’4”, 230, Sr.
Jevan Snead needed experience, and Nutt gave him plenty of it in 2008. The junior started in every game, hitting on 184-of-327 passes for 2,762 yards. If the Texas-native can find the same success in 2009, the Rebels will be tough to stop when they have the ball in their hands.
Senior Billy Tapp, who appeared in just three games and completed 3-of-5 passes last fall, will get the ball if Snead runs into any injury issues.
Brandon Bolden – 5’11”, 220, So.
Cordera Eason – 5’10”, 224, Sr.
Dexter McCluster (655), Cordera Eason (647), Brandon Bolen (542) and Enrique Davis (244) all rushed for over 200 yards last fall, good numbers given that carries were split amongst four bodies.
Bolden, a Baton Rouge-native who impressed this spring, was tabbed to get the start at the position after the spring. Coming off a junior campaign in which he totaled six touchdowns, McCluster will once again be the central focus of the “Wild Rebel”.
Wide Receivers and Tight End
Dexter McCluster – 5’8”, 165, Sr.
Shay Hodge – 6’1”, 207, Sr.
Lionel Breaux – 6’0”, 191, Jr.
Markeith Summers – 6’2”, 197, Jr.
Gerald Harris – 6’5”, 250, Sr.
Mike Wallace, who led the team with 784 receiving yards on 39 catches in 2008, is lost to graduation – leaving Shay Hodge, McCluster, Lionel Breaux and Markeith Summers to carry the weight.
Hodge, who led the team with eight touchdown receptions last fall, will be Snead’s top target. Breaux, a New Orleans-native, made a big splash during the offseason and looks to get the start as the Rebels’ third receiver.
Tight end Gerald Harris, who proved to be quite the red zone threat after pulling in four touchdowns on seven catches last fall, is back for his senior campaign.
Bradley Sowell – 6’7”, 310, So.
Reid Neely – 6’6”, 310, Sr.
Daverin Geralds – 6’2”, 312, Sr.
Rishaw Johnson – 6’4”, 295, So.
John Jerry – 6’5”, 350, Sr.
The big name is the one that is no longer around: All-American left tackle Michael Oher. The battle to replace the Memphis-native comes down to Bradley Sowell and Alex Washington, with Sowell appearing to be the frontrunner.
The three veterans – guard Reid Neely, center Daverin Geralds and right tackle John Jerry – should help ease the departure.
Kentrell Lockett – 6’5”, 240, Jr.
Ted Laurent – 6’0”, 303, Jr.
Lawon Scott – 6’1”, 322, Jr.
Marcus Tillman – 6’4”, 260, Sr.
Peria Jerry is no longer on board, but the Rebels still have plenty to offer. Juniors Kentrell Lockett and Ted Laurent, who combined for 60 tackles last fall, are back at end and tackle, respectively.
Marcus Tillman, who logged 14 solo stops as a starter in 2008, will get the start at defensive end opposite Lockett. Lawon Scott, who started in six games during his sophomore campaign, is tabbed as the second starter at tackle, though junior Jerrelle Powe is making significant strides at the spot.
Allen Walker – 6’1”, 215, Jr.
Jonathon Cornell – 6’1”, 225, Jr.
Patrick Trahan – 6’2”, 225, Sr.
Allen Walker and Jonathon Cornell did not get the start in all 13 games last fall, but the pair of juniors saw plenty of action. That is great news to defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix, who is feeling as confident about the unit as any on the defensive side.
One Rebel that Nix can’t stop raving about is Patrick Trahan, who erupted as a fan favorite on special teams in 2008 following his transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College. The New Orleans-native recorded 29 stops and two starts last fall.
Cassius Vaughn – 5’10”, 185, Sr.
Marshay Green – 5’9”, 170, Sr.
Kendrick Lewis – 5’11”, 192, Sr.
Johnny Brown – 5’11”, 207, Jr.
The secondary has three starters, including both cornerbacks, back in the fold. That seems like great news, but the Rebels will need the group to improve before they feel any better. The unit gave up 221 yards per game through the air last fall, the worst mark in the SEC.
Safety Kendrick Lewis, who led the team with 85 stops and four interceptions in 2008, will be the leader of the bunch. Marshay Green and Cassius Vaughn, who combined for 75 tackles last year, will be the starters at cornerback.
Joshua Shene – 5’8”, 170, Sr.
Justin Sparks – 6’2”, 187, Sr.
Joshua Shene is one of the country’s top kickers, earning first team All-SEC honors last fall. The senior’s 42 career field goals is the best mark among active kickers.
Fellow senior Justin Sparks will take over the punting duties.