No Off to this Season

In this day and age, football is never out of season.

Saturday turned to Sunday. Sunday turned to Monday. And just as soon as Ole Miss was finishing off its final game of the 2010 season, it ushered in an offseason sure to be filled with intrigue.

"It's a disappointing year that we're still not playing," head coach Houston Nutt said. "I just hate it. The only thing I know to do is go back to work."

Nutt holds his annual end-of-the-season press conference at 2 p.m. A team meeting is scheduled two hours later inside the indoor practice facility. The intensity of Ole Miss' offseason workouts, especially after a 4-8 (1-7 SEC) season, is expected to be amped up considerably.

D.T. Shackelford

All the while, recruiting news will continue to filter in leading up to National Signing Day in February.

In this day and age, football is never out of season.

"I believe this will be one of our hardest workout seasons that I've ever been a part of," linebacker D.T. Shackelford, now a junior, said.

Ole Miss said goodbye to 19 seniors following a 31-23 loss to Mississippi State, including linebacker Jonathan Cornell, who Shackelford is expected to replace.

Cornell led a much-maligned defense with 92 total tackles. He was also tops on the team in tackles for loss with 15. Cornell, who appeared in every game during the season, had 4.5 sacks, two pass breakups, two quarterback hurries and one forced fumble.

"There's a good foundation laid," Cornell said. "The third year's the toughest year for a new coach. You've seen a transition in players and experience and stuff like that."

There are holes to be filled, from two members of the secondary (safety Johnny Brown and cornerback Jeremy McGee), to a handful along the defensive line. Defensive tackles Ted Laurent, Lawon Scott and LaMark Armour exhausted their eligibility. Defensive end Kentrell Lockett and defensive tackle Jerrell Powe, also seniors, could return.

Two of three starters at linebacker, Cornell and Allen Walker, are also gone, leaving only Joel Kight.

Jonathan Cornell

"What we need for next year, we got it this year, and that's experience," Cornell said. "We've got a very young secondary. We'll be losing two from the secondary, so some guys are going to have to step up. But the guys who are going to have to step up have been playing this year.

"We've got guys coming along, like (defensive end) Jason Jones, a lot of guys who were afforded a lot of experience."

Offensively, the Rebels are better off, with all but two of their starters returning.

The most significant loss is quarterback Jeremiah Masoli who, in his only season at Ole Miss, broke Norris Weese's single-season record for rushing yards with 543.

"This is a really young team," Masoli said. "One of the upsides to that is they'll be really good next year. That's how I really feel. That's what I was telling a lot of guys in there (after the game), just shaking their hands, thanking them for this season. But I was also telling them, ‘You guys got to work hard for next season, cause there's a lot of potential in this roster.'"

Shackelford said for the team to rebound in 2011, it will have to become more consistent both on and off the field. That means players adhering to the demands of their coaching staff, which could debut some different faces upon kickoff of the season-opener with BYU.

"Just good, old-fashioned hard work, man," Shackelford said. "You can try to do a whole lot of stuff, but it all comes down to who's going to work the hardest. The season's actually won in the offseason – what you're able to do, you're preparation.

"That'll definitely be at an all-time high."

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