Departing Defensive Linemen
Robert Nkemdiche, Woodrow Hamilton and Channing Ward.
Returning Defensive Linemen
Breeland Speaks, Marquis Haynes, Fadol Brown, Issac Gross, David (D.J.) Jones, John Youngblood, Garrald McDowell, Shawn Curtis, Victor Evans, Ross Donelly, Austrian Robinson and Herbert Moore.
Class of 2016 Signees
Charles Wiley, Benito Jones and Josiah Coatney.
Losing a talented defensive tackle like Robert Nkemdiche is never a good thing, but Ole Miss seems to have an equally talented replacement in Breeland Speaks. Speaks impressed many in his redshirt freshman season, picking up 32 tackles and a sack. Standing at 6 feet 3 inches and 310 lbs., the redshirt sophomore is a large athletic body and has a great motor. The Rebels recently released their preseason two-deep depth chart, and unsurprisingly Speaks is listed as the starter at defensive tackle going into the fall. True freshman Benito Jones or redshirt freshman Austrian Robinson will be behind Speaks in the rotation. Jones was a class of 2016 early enrollee, who coaches could not stop talking about during spring practice. Jones is considered by many to be a be a bigger version of nose tackle Isaac Gross. His explosiveness in the trenches is a huge addition to a talented defensive line. Robinson seems to have developed in his redshirt season and will look to make an impact in the rotation as well. Ole Miss also picked up a late class of 2016 addition in Josiah Coatney. Coatney was a highly sought after prospect from Holmes Community College, and may split time between defensive tackle and end before he finds his true role on the line.
Going into his second season in the SEC, D.J. Jones is expected to be at the top of the defensive line rotation for Ole Miss. Jones picked up forty tackles and was second on the team with four sacks in 2015. He was also awarded the Jeff Hamm Memorial award as the Rebels' most improved defensive player in the spring. With a year of SEC football under his belt, Jones is expected to be even better in 2016. A serious neck injury sidelined Issac Gross for almost all of the 2015 season, but Gross looks to return to old form this fall. When healthy Gross can be a dominant nose tackle for the Rebels. Although he is considered to be undersized for his position, Gross' has shown he can line up against the best centers in the game, use his quickness to explode off the line and chase down mobile QBs. Ole Miss is undeniably better with Gross back in the rotation. Sophomore Ross Donelly and Herbert Moore will back up Jones and Gross in the rotation. Donelly saw the field as a true freshman in 2015, and will provide good depth for the Rebels. Moore returns to action in 2016 after sitting out last season with a torn ACL. Although his development may have suffered as a result of sitting out, Moore will look to make his playing time count in the fall.
The Landshark defense's pass rushing ability could be at an all-time high in 2016. Ole Miss returns a dynamic pass rusher in Marquis Haynes and a physical one in Fadol Brown. Entering his junior season Haynes is already tied for fourth in school history (since 1983) with 17.5 career sacks. At 6 feet 3 inches and 222 lbs., Haynes quickly blows past most OTs to terrorize QBs. As a junior Haynes will catch the eye of NFL scouts while helping the Rebels make a college football playoff run. Brown missed spring practice as he recovered from a foot injury, but is expected to be in full form in the fall. Brown anchors the strong side of the Ole Miss defensive line and will continue to be an effective run stopper for the Rebels. Although injuries limited him in 2015, Brown still picked up 32 tackles and a sack. He also lead the defense with ten QB hurries. Chucky Mullins Award recipient John Youngblood and redshirt sophomore Victor Evans will also be key in the Rebels defensive end rotation. Youngblood has been a solid contributor in the defensive line rotation and will be a key leader in 2016. Evans adds depth to the defensive end position and will see quality playing time in the fall. Garrald McDowell is a former Under Armour All-American, who has yet to make a major impact on the Ole Miss defensive line. Entering his redshirt sophomore season, McDowell needs to make an impact in 2016 to be considered for a starting spot in the future. Recruited to play LB, Shawn Curtis will move to the defensive line for his redshirt freshman season. Curtis has good size and speed, but his future at the position is to be determined. Charles Wiley was a class of 2016 early enrollee who has shown promise for the future. Whether Wiley will play or be redshirted in 2016 is still not known.