A closer look at spring football

When all the dust clears from spring training, which players will be standing and have a fall spotlight aimed at them? That remains to be seen, but here's a rough guess about the offensive depth chart as Thursday's start of spring training approaches.

Spring training will be the actual tell-all of how the Ole Miss football team shapes up, but the following are our guesses - some educated, some not - on how the depth chart will shape up.

A disclaimer to this is that we still don't know, exactly, what Houston Nutt and his staff will look for at each position. For instance, the last staff liked, ideally, 260-pound plus defensive ends. From talking to DL Coach Tracy Rocker, he wants more speed and is not as concerned with size at the DE slots.

We're not sure - yet - where other taste variations between the past two staffs will settle in, but based on last year's performances, here's our best guess on a spring depth chart as we await the action to begin Thursday.

Today, the offense. Tomorrow morning, a closer look at the defense and specialists.

Right Tackle - John Jerry, a two-year starter at right guard, has been moved RT. The new coaches believe John is better-suited for tackle and will give him a shot to prove it. Last year's starter, Maurice Miller, will also work at RT and at right guard.

Right Guard - Miller will have a shot there and tt appears OL Coach Mike Markuson wants to take a look at redshirt freshman Rishaw Johnson at RG as well as center, where it was anticipated Rishaw might surface a couple of months ago. Rishaw and Mo and probably Alex Washington will all work there in spring. We understand through the grapevine that Rishaw has knocked the socks off of some offseason lifts and is in top physical condition as spring starts. It appears this is a move, coupled with Jerry's move outside, by Markuson to get more athletic up front. Rishaw is considered one of the better athletes of the OL.

Center - As expected, junior Daverin Geralds will work there after spending part of his career as a DT and part of last year at OG. Again, a move to get more athletic. Rishaw will also be there getting a good look. The new staff also signed a JUCO All-American center in Brandon Green and it will be interesting to watch his development.

Left Guard - Obviously, junior Reid Neely has the inside track on this position after starting last year, but look for junior Mark Jean-Louis to make a push here for playing time in the OG rotation. He can play on either side of center. Neely, we understand, has increased his strength level significantly in the offseason, which he said would be his number one priority.

Left Tackle - Senior Michael Oher is another player whose strength levels hsve risen dramatically. He was All-SEC last year. Maybe he's headed for an All-American campaign this year - he earned third team AA status last year. It would not be a stretch for him to reach the first-team level his senior season. Working hard and patiently waiting his "turn" is redshirt freshman Bradley Sowell, who is doing a good job of developing while he understudies Oher.

Wild Cards - Darryl Harris is applying for a sixth year medical hardship. If he gets it, look for him to be a challenger at right guard and he's a guy who has played every OL position in his career, so his versatility will be critical. . . Don Mosley, Terry Freeman, Zack Brent, Will Briscoe, Paul Hurd and Brent Smith are also candidates. Will one of them emerge in spring?

Quarterback - Obviously, "everyone" anticipates a big spring from transfer Jevan Snead, now a sophomore after sitting out last year due to transfer rules. Jevan's got "it." Everyone knows it and everyone expects big things form him. Look for junior Billy Tapp to back him up. Three walkons are also on the spring roster - JUCO transfer sophomore Layton Jones, a 6-4 215-pounder, JUCO transfer Omar Love and redshirt freshman Clay Fowler, who was on the squad last year. Needless to say, a lot of hopes are resting squarely on Snead's shoulders. The second-most important thing at the QB position will be getting Tapp or one of the others ready in case. . . well, we won't even say it.

Fullback - Senior Jason Cook is one of the leaders of the team and is a get-it-done, reliable player. He's bright, driven and competitive. In the offseason, he set three school records in lifting for the fullback position. He keeps working and getting better. Junior Andy Hartmann was number two last year based on his toughness and talents, but what is not clear is if sophomore Reggie Hicks will land at TB or FB in spring. Maybe both, but he will start out at TB. RS Frosh Dan Hoffman and Lambuth transfer freshman Andrew Stuart are also listed on the spring roster.

Tailback - Junior Cordera Eason appears to be the early favorite, but he'll be pushed by sophomore speedster Jeremy McGee, Hicks and sophomore Derrick Davis. Walkon JUCO transfer Jermaine Johnson will also be in the mix. Eason has been working hard to make sure the turn he's been waiting patiently on for two years is actually his. McGee, however, adds something the new staff likes a lot - speed. Should be an interesting spring battle.

Tight End - Senior David Traxler has had, by all accounts, an outstanding offseason. Will he grab the position or yield it to impressive JUCO transfer Gerald Harris? Nobody knows, but it's a good problem to have because Nutt will use more than one tight end frequently. A host of "others" are sprinkled in the TE race - Cecil Frison, converted DT Ben Benedetto, converted DL Garrett Ryan and redshirt freshman Jared Jungles. At least one of those candidates needs to step up and provide some help quickly.

Wide Receiver - At this time, we have no clue who will be at wide receiver, who will be at flanker or who will be in the slot. For that reason, we'll just throw all the wideouts in a hat. Obviously, the top candidates will be the top returnees - Mike Wallace, Marshay Green, Dexter McCluster, Shay Hodge and Michael Hicks. But it's probably time for sophomores Markeith Summers, who turned some heads with his offseason results, and Lionel Breaux, who adds even more speed to the position, to make a move as well. . . Other candidates on the spring roster include freshman Vincent Moss, sophomroe Billy Dobbs, frosh Josh McGlaum, redshirt sophomore Richie Contartesi, junior William Cole, senior Jacarious Lucas and senior Chris Adams. Dobbs and Lucas did some notable things last year in practices, but little is known of the new names. Overall, the wide receiver position should be in good hands, pardon the pun. With another year of experience for all the returnees - we didn't lose anyone out of that unit from last year - there's little reason to expect anything but success from those positions.

Overview - A little bit of depth needs to develop on the offensive line, the tight end position has to solidify and grow, Tapp has to prove his reliability at QB, and Eason/McGee need to be all we think they can be at TB. If those things take place in spring, look for the offense to be a very good unit in 2008.

Tomorrow, defense and special teams look.

OM Spirit Top Stories