After opening the 2009 season with Memphis, Ole Miss returns home almost two weeks later with its second non-conference tilt with Southeastern Louisiana.
The Lions, who Ole Miss will be meeting for the first time, finished 2008 with an overall record of 5-7 and 2-5 clip in Southland play. The team averaged 27.2 points per game, good for sixth in the conference and 27th nationally (FCS).
SELA is led offensively by senior quarterback Brian Babin. The 6-foot-5, 220 pounder threw for over 2,800 yards last season, ranking 17th nationally, with 25 touchdowns to only seven interceptions. Babin also completed 62.1 percent of his passes, with a passing efficiency of 136.2 for 32nd in the FCS.
On the ground, the Lions return senior Jasper Ducksworth, who finished second on the team in rushing behind the departed Jay Lucas last season. Ducksworth ran for 256 yards a year ago, while Lucas accounted for 816 yards and four touchdowns.
Lucas was also an accomplished receiver, as he caught 58 passes for 557 yards through the air. However, the team's leading receiver Chris Wilson is back, after totaling 740 yards over his junior year. Sophomore Simmie Yarborough and junior Andre Cryer return, bringing close to 1,000 yards receiving combined last season.
Senior Tommy Connors spearheads the Lions defensively, and was recently named a preseason First-Team All-American pick. He became the first player to garner such honors, after recording a career-high 108 tackles as a junior. Connors was one of only three Southland players to be named to the first team.
Last season, Connors led Southeastern and finished second in the Southland in tackles. A three-time All-Southland selection, Connors tied for the conference lead with four interceptions and recorded 6.5 tackles for loss. Connors had four pass breakups, with two blocked kicks, 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble.
As a sophomore, linebacker Mark Newbill was second on the team with 100 tackles and amassed 10 tackles for loss. Newbill forced two fumbles last season, while notching two sacks and two pass breakups.
Even with Connors patrolling the defensive backfield, the Lion secondary was hit hard with graduation this season. Connors led the team in interceptions in 2008, but tied for second were defensive backs Trey Douglas and Marquis Powell with two each. However, both have since departed, leaving little depth in the secondary. After grabbing one interception as well last year, Tony Johnson is also gone.
With a week off between the Rebels' meetings with Memphis and Southeastern Louisiana, the team will have plenty of time to analyze where they stand both offensively and defensively.
As the superior team, Ole Miss can ill-afford a mental lapse against SELA, as decisive victories over lesser competition helps boost BCS rankings. Since the Rebels offer a non-conference schedule lacking in the national recognition department, winning in dominant fashion could play a major part in the team's outlook for the season.
Further, only one win over SELA or Northern Arizona counts toward bowl eligibility, so a convincing win early could allow the coaching staff to sit more regulars against Northern Arizona. The game is sandwiched between Auburn and Tennessee.
Scouting the Opponents: SELA
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