Stock Report: Five to Watch

Ole Miss (3-4, 1-3 SEC) meets No. 3 Auburn (8-0, 5-0 SEC) Saturday at 5 p.m. Go inside for five players to keep an eye on as kickoff approaches.

San Francisco, Calif. | SR-TR
SIZE: 5-11/220
STOCK: En Fuego
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Ole Miss senior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli finally flexed his muscle in a 38-24 loss to Arkansas a week ago. The former Oregon quarterback, who finds his name in our weekly stock report for the fifth time this season, exploded for 425 yards of total offense – the second-highest total in program history behind only Archie Manning. Masoli did it all against the Razorbacks, despite working behind yet another patchwork offensive line. He had his best day through the air, completing 21 of his 36 passes for a career-high 327 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 98 yards. Masoli has basically become a one-man show offensively, especially with the team struggling to score points (Ole Miss has combined for 34 points in back-to-back losses to Alabama and Arkansas). Brandon Bolden, who has had a solid junior season, was ineffective against the Razorbacks. Ole Miss' wide receivers have been vastly inconsistent all season. Masoli, however, continues to chug along, keeping a struggling team afloat as it scratches and claws for three more wins in its last five games to gain bowl eligibility. If Ole Miss is to knock of No. 3 Auburn Saturday, it will have to do so through the heroics of its best player. Masoli will need to equal or better his performance from Arkansas, especially considering the Tigers feature one of the better run defenses in the country. Ole Miss' chance at an upset is likely to hinge on the passing game. Head coach Houston Nutt, in typical fashion, will try and pull out all the stops on Halloween eve. Those tricks start and end with Masoli.
QUOTABLE: "He's been told and coached that when things break down, you go to instincts," Nutt said. "We trust him with the ball. We trust him in how he takes care of it. He knows where the down markers are. There've been a couple of times we'd like for him to take the ball down and run a few more times, don't try to always feel like you've got to force a pass. Take off running. He's done an excellent job."
WEEK 8 TOTALS: 21 of 36, 327 yards, 3 touchdowns; 98 yards rushing
BEN'S BOLD PREDICTION: 26 of 44, 303 yards, 2 touchdowns; 8 carries, 77 yards, 1 touchdown

#13 FS - Brishen Mathews
Monticello, Ark. | FR-HS
SIZE: 6-1/190
STOCK: Same
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Those hoping for a one-on-one collision between Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton and hard-hitting Ole Miss safety Damien Jackson will most likely be disappointed Saturday. Jackson, as announced by Nutt Thursday, is unlikely to see much, if any, action against the Tigers. Jackson hurt his knee in the team's loss to Arkansas, sidelining the junior college transfer throughout the practice week. It's a disappointing development, considering Jackson's drastic improvement following a less-than-stellar performance in Ole Miss' season-opening loss to Jacksonville State. Now Jackson sits as the team's second-leading tackler, including six stops at Arkansas. This week, Jackson's workload falls to another hard-hitter, true freshman Brishen Mathews. Mathews has seen plenty of action this season, but mostly on special teams. He's learning on the fly, regarded by those close to the program as a key defensive piece now and in the future. Still, with the high-powered Auburn offense coming into town, having to turn to an inexperienced backup is unsettling. Fon Ingram and Johnny Brown will draw starts at free safety and strong safety, respectively. But Mathews will get plenty of playing time. His ability to tackle in space is a needed commodity. Cam Newton has proven to be the most dynamic player in college football this season, entering the game having scored 27 total touchdowns. With his unmatched ability to do damage outside of the pocket with his feet, Mathews will likely be called upon in run support. A tough task, no doubt, but defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix has no other choice. It's Mathews' turn.
QUOTABLE: "I'm hoping maybe he can get some spot play or play on special teams," Nutt said of Jackson. "When you miss all week, it's hard, especially with all the things Auburn does on offense. Hopefully he'll be well enough to add some depth, but it looks like Brishen will have to play more."
WEEK 8 TOTALS: 2 total tackles
BEN'S BOLD PREDICTION: 7 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss

Olive Branch, Miss. | SR-3L
SIZE: 6-3/205
STOCK: Rising
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Welcome back, Markeith Summers. After breaking out with five catches for 165 yards in a 27-14 win at Tulane, the senior wide receiver was virtually absent from the Ole Miss offense. He had become better known for his high-profile drops than his contributions in previous weeks, as was the case in a forgettable effort at Alabama. On the third play of the game, Summer dropped a would-be 80-yard touchdown catch, setting the tone for a miserable first-half offensive performance for Ole Miss. But Summers, in search of redemption, found it last week, recording a three-catch, 104-yard performance. Summer finally showcased his talents, attacking passes in the air and blowing the top off the Razorbacks' coverage en route to two touchdowns. Summers, a veteran leader, is arguably Ole Miss' most viable deep-play threat when he's on his game. He has to make the most of his opportunities, especially when taking the frustrating inconsistencies of Jesse Grandy, another burner, into account. With the team now facing must-win games almost every week, Summers will see his targets spike considerably. Masoli often targets Summers, but outside of two weeks in 2010, he hasn't delivered. If Ole Miss is to turn its season around, Summers will have to be an impact player. He was last week. The same is needed Saturday, when No. 3 Auburn and its strong, albeit vulnerable, defense strolls into Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday at 5 p.m.
QUOTABLE: "I had a bad game at Alabama and had to rebound against Arkansas. I prepared hard and focused and it all paid off," Summers said. "I needed some redemption. I was motivated all week after having that poor outing at Alabama."
WEEK 8 TOTALS: 3 catches, 104 yards, 2 touchdowns
BEN'S BOLD PREDICTION: 6 catches, 92 yards, 2 touchdowns

#74 G - Jared Duke
Cleveland, Tenn. | FR-HS
SIZE: 6-6/325
STOCK: Same
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: As the Ole Miss offensive line turns, the Rebels find themselves with yet another new starter. Somewhat new to the drama up front is true freshman Jared Duke, an impressive youngster, who moves in place of center-turned-guard-turned-center A.J. Hawkins. Since the dismissal of Rishaw Johnson for a violation of team rules earlier this season, right guard has seen a new player almost every week. First it was Josh Tatum. Tatum, of course, was injured at Tulane. Michael Brown was next in line, but he fell flat, seemingly outmanned, in his only appearance vs. Vanderbilt. Enter Logan Clair, solid in mop-up duty against the Commodores and over three starts (Fresno State, Kentucky and Alabama). But Clair, too, was injured. He broke his ankle in the Rebels' loss to the Crimson Tide. He's out 4-6 weeks, meaning his return this season is questionable at best. With Evan Swindall penciled in at center, the team turned to A.J. Hawkins at right guard a week later at Arkansas. The experiment wasn't successful, as Duke made multiple appearances in the 38-24 loss. Hawkins is better suited for center, where he started the first four games of the season, so Nutt and offensive line coach Mike Markuson now reach even deeper into their shallow well of linemen for Duke – a 6-foot-6, 325-pound, wide-eyed freshman. And I haven't mentioned the team he'll be drawing his first career start against, Auburn, who features the nation's 16th-best rushing defense. Best of luck, kid. It's almost a broken record, but Ole Miss hasn't been afforded the luxury of building continuity up front. Even when it looked like the Rebels had found its starting five, including another true freshman in Patrick Junen at left guard, the team was snake bitten again. Duke gets his shot, even if it's premature. Will he be the answer? Tune in Saturday.
QUOTABLE: "A.J. is more of a natural center. Evan (Swindall) has done a nice job, but we feel A.J. is the way to go for now," co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Markuson said. "Jared has had a good week of practice. We'll see how it unfolds."
WEEK 8 TOTALS: N/A

Miami, Fla. | FR-RS
SIZE: 5-11/175
STOCK: Same
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Through seven games, Ole Miss has intercepted a grand total of two passes. Two. The Rebels rank second to last in the country in interceptions, ahead of only New Mexico St. Even worse, the Ole Miss secondary has accounted for just one of those interceptions, thanks to redshirt freshman cornerback Charles Sawyer. The other? Look no further than senior linebacker Allen Walker, who basically had the ball handed to him by Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett in the first quarter last Saturday. For a defense struggling to stop anyone, Ole Miss can ill-afford to be as bad as it is at creating turnovers. The Rebels have recovered seven fumbles, tied for 23rd in the nation, but their secondary has been timid in attacking the ball in the air and creating big plays at critical times. Part of the blame lies in the scheme, but the players deserve criticism, as well. Johnny Brown has dropped would-be interceptions; same for Jeremy McGee, Marcus Temple, Fon Ingram and Sawyer. Sawyer, in particular, was billed as a big-play threat in the secondary in the preseason. But Sawyer, long thought of as a star in the making, has been disappointing. He is easily the most talented player Ole Miss has to offer in the secondary. Yes, he's a freshman with three years left to play. But he has to come on in a big way over the team's final five games. He can make those game-turning plays, with an ability to return interceptions for touchdowns. Maybe it happens Saturday, when Ole Miss needs its best defensive performance to date. Cameron Newton, when in the pocket, has proven to be far less efficient.
QUOTABLE: "With (Newton), he's a big dude," Sawyer said. "He's way, way more athletic than the other (dual-threat quarterbacks we've faced). So we've just got to tackle. Much better tackling. We've just gotta play the way we know how to play. Play like the old Rebels – gang tackling and just not letting people run all over us."
WEEK 8 TOTALS: 3 total tackles, 1 tackle for loss
BEN'S BOLD PREDICTION: 5 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 interception


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