The view from a window, any window, here in Oxford is easy enough. The sun's shining almost each and every day, the grass glistening green and the skies as blue as ever.
Step outside, though, and it's a completely different story.
It's hot, folks. Blistering hot. Miserably hot. Wrath-of-God hot. August is here in full force, wreaking havoc on each of our sudoriferous glands with its 100-plus temperatures and heat indexes. But the unrelenting heat is a sign of football, I suppose. College football fans everywhere get excited this time of year, no matter the gallons of Gatorade consumed during a mid-day trip to the grocery store just to stay cool.
Ole Miss players report this week, starting with the newcomers today. A star-studded class of freshmen and junior college transfers report to the indoor practice facility, with all eyes on such names as Nickolas Brassell, C.J. Johnson, Tobias Singleton and Senquez Golson.
This is easily the most important class in Houston Nutt's tenure as Ole Miss head coach. A handful, if not a majority, will surely see the field early and play key roles in the team's success or failure. Of most importance, perhaps, are linebackers Johnson, Keith Lewis and Serderius Bryant. Junior D.T. Shackelford tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in spring practices, and is likely to miss the 2011-12 season. The oft-troubled Clarence Jackson has since been (predictably) dismissed, as well, leaving a unit limited in numbers.
They'll all be here today, even safety Aaron Garbutt, who was the last eligibility concern. He was cleared by the NCAA clearinghouse last week, joining a class filled with potential contributors on both sides of the ball.
The arrival of new faces almost always energizes a fanbase, the equivalent of your favorite Major League Baseball team acquiring that exciting, missing piece at the trade deadline. Oftentimes those returning players are afterthoughts, at least in the early weeks of August.
Because every fan is eager to learn the number of newcomer X, right?
But, alas, we're obligated to look to the returners. They'll arrive Friday, a day prior to Ole Miss' opening practice Saturday at 4:30 p.m. All first-week practices (August 6-12) are open to the public. Come join us as we sweat and complain of heat exhaustion! (Sarcasm off.)
Storylines are abundant this fall, with a three-man race (or, really, a two-man race, if Nutt's words this summer are any indication) at quarterback headlining the group. Barry Brunetti, Randall Mackey and Zach Stoudt will soon duke it out for starting rights under center in place of the now-departed Jeremiah Masoli.
Of course, we can't forget the defensive line, a unit that lost all four of its contributing defensive tackles last season. And the linebackers. And the defensive backs. Man, defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix has a whale of a job on his hands.
We'll get more into that later on. For now, sit back in the air-conditioned room of your choice as we spend the next four weeks detailing each step of Ole Miss' path to its season opener against BYU.
Hey, Chuck, pass the water bottle.