Stock Report: Five to Watch

Ole Miss (3-3, 1-2 SEC) meets No. 21 Arkansas (4-2, 1-2 SEC) Saturday at 11:21 a.m. Go inside for four players, and a position, to keep an eye on as kickoff approaches.

#34 RB - Brandon Bolden
Baton Rouge, La. | JR-2L
SIZE: 5-11/215
STOCK: Rising
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Junior running back Brandon Bolden was all but invisible against Alabama. He had his reasons. The Ole Miss passing game struggled mightily, especially in the first half, when the Rebels gained a measly 41 yards and two first downs. It was rare poor performance for Bolden in 2010. The bruising runner ranks fourth in the Southeastern Conference in rushing with 91.7 yards per game. He's also the team's leading receiver with 15 receptions. In short, Bolden has been Ole Miss' one constant every week. He's a heavy part of the game plan, mainly because of his effectiveness with the ball in his hands. He always seems to make positive gains, having transformed his game from specialty back to one of the conference's most effective rushers. He'll be important this week, simply because Saturday's meeting between the Rebels and No. 21 Arkansas is sure to be high-scoring. However, Ole Miss can't afford a 65-43 track race, as was the score in an Arkansas loss to Auburn a week ago. Ole Miss needs to sustain drives, playing keep-away from the SEC's leading passer in Ryan Mallett. Bolden, along with Jeremiah Masoli, are likely to be called upon early and often, even if head coach Houston Nutt opts to open the game with a variation of a spread offense. If the game goes as the Rebels hope, Bolden could be in for one of his most productive games of the season. If not, the offense will have to lean on a passing game proven sporadic in recent weeks.
QUOTABLE: "The SEC West is wide open. I know there are still two teams out there who are undefeated, but there are some tough matchups for everyone in the next few weeks. We need to win so we don't add to that loss column and stay in the race. (Ole Miss head) Coach (Houston) Nutt told us to keep our eyes on the prize because there will probably not be an undefeated SEC West team and anything is possible."
WEEK 7 TOTALS: 10 carries, 32 yards; 4 receptions, 32 yards
BEN'S BOLD PREDICTION: 13 carries, 84 yards, 2 touchdown; 3 receptions, 24 yards

Pineville, La. | JR-JC
SIZE: 6-2/205
STOCK: Rising
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The light has come on for junior safety Damien Jackson, the highly-regarded junior college transfer entering his seventh game. He was a major key in the defense's drastic turnaround in a 23-10 loss to Alabama, when he had six tackles, including one for loss. Jackson is playing with reckless abandon these days, flying to the football with the highest of confidence. He and senior Fon Ingram have routinely split time in the secondary alongside Johnny Brown, but Jackson, in fairness, has been the most productive. He's second on the team in tackles, as well as 12th in the conference. His leadership has also shown bright in his debut season. He's one of the team's hardest hitters, but also a vocal presence in an otherwise young locker room. He isn't afraid to speak up, mainly because he backs up his words with jarring hits and relentless effort. Against Arkansas, he'll need to have his best game of the season. The secondary is in for its toughest test, as Mallett, a potential Top 10 NFL Draft selection, leads the SEC with over 1,800 yards passing and 14 touchdowns. Mallett, a pocket-passer in its truest sense, can terrorize a secondary when he's on his game, especially if faced with little pressure. Jackson will be called upon to not only hold his own in coverage, where he's struggled at times, but in blitz packages. Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix will have to get creative in dialing up pressure. Jackson, a threat at getting to the quarterback, could do some damage in the backfield.
QUOTABLE: "Execution and playing hard. Execution and effort. If you execute and reach your expectations, you're usually happy. We've got to go, be tough and play hard. It's a great opportunity. They're one of the best passing teams in the nation, quite frankly. You get to see where you are, measure yourself. Better not back down."
WEEK 7 TOTALS: 6 total tackles, 1 tackle for loss
BEN'S BOLD PREDICTION: 11 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble

San Francisco, Calif. | SR-TR
SIZE: 5-11/220
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Jeremiah Masoli might as well be a regular in our weekly stock reports. He's the engine to Ole Miss' offense, as the dual-threat quarterback has a role in almost every play called by Nutt and staff. Be it on the ground or through the air, Masoli is a viable threat, though he's been average at best in completing passes to his receivers, making good on just 56 percent of his throws. To his credit, however, he hasn't had much help. Drops have been a consistent problem. The offensive line has undergone change, it seems, every week. He's worked with two centers, including true freshman Evan Swindall, who will be making the second start of his career against Arkansas. But Masoli makes the list because of the damage done against a leaky Razorback defense by another dual-threat quarterback last week – Auburn starter Cameron Newton. Newton terrorized Arkansas, rushing for well over 150 yards. The Tiger offense racked up 65 points, en route to a decisive win. Masoli has similar tools to Newton, though he is of much smaller stature. Newton is 6-foot-6. Masoli, meanwhile, is 5-foot-8. It's reasonable to assume Masoli will be the priority for Arkansas. They'll attempt to keep him in check in the running game, forcing Bolden and company to do their worst. But Masoli will have his opportunities. Masoli ranks seventh in the SEC in total offense, but he has yet to have his breakout game. On his side is a favorable matchup Saturday. His numbers could see a significant jump.
QUOTABLE: "It seems like they play a lot of man. They leave receivers out there, kind of on an island. It's going to be another big challenge for us. Auburn did a great job game-planning, and (Auburn quarterback) Cam Newton definitely made some big plays."
WEEK 5 TOTALS: 18 of 40, 110 yards, 1 touchdown; 40 yards rushing
BEN'S BOLD PREDICTION: 16 of 28, 246 yards, 1 touchdown; 11 carries, 66 yards, 1 touchdown

#76 G/C - A.J. Hawkins
Lithonia, Ga. | SO-1L
SIZE: 6-4/305
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Another week, another change along the Ole Miss offensive line. Right guard Logan Clair broke his ankle in the Rebels' loss to Alabama, sidelining the junior 4-6 weeks. Clair was solid in his two games as a starter. Better yet, Ole Miss was finally developing continuity up front. Luckily, sophomore A.J. Hawkins is back from a shoulder stinger suffered against Kentucky to fill in. Hawkins has worked strictly at center in 2010, starting the first five games. Swindall took his place in Tuscaloosa, and after a forgettable first half, more than held his own as Ole Miss moved the ball more effectively in the third and fourth quarters. Swindall will remain at center, while Hawkins, who has experience at guard, moves in the place of Clair. Hawkins should do well there, too. Originally a guard, he is a versatile lineman, described by offensive line coach Mike Markuson as an athletic player whose calling card is his ability to handle multiple positions. Still, Hawkins has limited game experience at the position. No matter his comfort level with guard, a position change in the middle of a season almost always has its lumps. Ole Miss can ill-afford to dip into its shallow well again. Hawkins has to hold down the fort. Depth is an issue. If Hawkins were to go down or struggle, the Rebels would likely turn to true freshman Jared Duke. And with a season teetering on the brink, inserting another true freshman (Ole Miss already starts Patrick Junen) is a worrisome proposition.
QUOTABLE: "It's always different when you've been working at a different position. Just staying focused and listening to coaching, learning what I need to do. I'm just helping the team at this point."

The Defensive Line
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Ole Miss registered seven tackles for loss against Alabama, including four sacks. For the first time all season, the secondary and defensive line were working in perfect harmony. Not only was the front manufacturing pressure, but the cornerbacks and safeties kept their coverage. There was gang tackling. Players were getting to the football quickly. Outside of an 85-yard screen pass to Trent Richardson in the third quarter, busts in assignments were rare. Now it's time for an encore. Ole Miss marches into Fayetteville Saturday. When the Rebels get off the bus, they will be meeting arguably the SEC's most potent offense. Last season, Ole Miss was able to pressure Mallett and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. The Rebels held Arkansas to only 17 points, downing the Razorbacks for the second time in as many seasons. It's no secret, but Saturday's outcome will be decided in the trenches. Getting to the quarterback starts up front. The collection of Jerrell Powe, Ted Laurent, Gerald Rivers, LaMark Armour, Wayne Dorsey and Lawon Scott has to be at its best. If Mallett is allowed all day to observe the field and find receivers, the final outcome won't be close. Period. When pressured, Mallett has displayed a propensity to turn the ball over, and winning the turnover battle would go a long way in the Rebels pulling the upset over Nutt's former team.
QUOTABLE: "We know that (Mallett) is a great quarterback; probably the best in the SEC," senior Ted Laurent said. "He'll probably be a Top 10 draft pick. He can tear a defense apart. We know the game will be on us. We've got to put a lot of pressure on him. We can bother him. It's just a lot of good coverage and the defensive line working hard."

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