"Which freshmen will play this year?"
It's fun to guess, but in reality, that's all any of that talk is - a guess, and most of the time, a wild one.
There is no sure-fire way to know which newcomers will adjust to the rigors of the next level - Division I football - until they play real football with the veterans. Full pads, strap-it-on, bleed-a-little football truly separates the real deals from the posers.
Being able to make the transition quickly has its signs, as Rebel Coach Houston Nutt noted, but until they pad up, it's just speculation who can and who can't.
"Maturity is a big key. The ones handling being away from Mom and Dad, the ones taking that playbook and understanding the terminology, the ones who will mix it up and not worry about it, those are the ones who make the impact," said Nutt.
Last year, it was MLB D.T. Shackelford, OLB Joel Kight, WR Jesse Grandy, most notably, and a couple of more, who showed those qualities and, as a result, played a lot of ball in their rookie campaigns.
"It's about focus and concentration and managing their time with the load of academics and football. Again, maturity and toughness are the keys," Nutt continued. "They have to be able to look at the situation - I'm playing on Saturday instead of Friday, I'm playing against some of the best athletes in the world, I'm in the best conference in the country and I'm focused enough and tough enough to do it. Those are the ones who contribute the most."
Fans are not the only ones who try to speculate on the freshman question. Nutt admits coaches do the same.
"We always sit around in the summer and play with that. Where are we at each position? Who has been here doing good things in the weight room all summer? Which positions need the most help? We play with it and guess, but sometimes we are dead wrong," Nutt said. "We have surprises every year, it seems like.
"Traditionally, we are going to have 5-7 who can help in some capacity, special teams, spot duty and so on, and we expect that again this year, but predicting exactly who they will be is difficult. There may be one or two we thought would play that end up desperately needing a redshirt and one or two we thought would redshirt who are good enough to handle playing. We won't know for a couple of weeks."
Certainly, unless a certain position is really thin, the newcomers who have been working out all summer with the veterans and are acclimated to the workload and are in good physical condition have a leg up on those who miss summer workouts.
"We work year round now and the ones who do that have an edge. They already know so much of the demands and have been studying the systems. They know how we do things," Houston explained.
So of the "newcomers" who reported today, which ones have the best chance to impact/contribute? Again, it's a guess, but guessing is part of the fun.
It would stand to reason the newcomers who went through spring training - DE Wayne Dorsey, S Damien Jackson, OLB Mike Marry, DE Cameron Whigham and C Evan Swindall (C Chase Hughes was injured, but he got good mental work) - have already proven a lot.
Dorsey and Jackson, however, are JUCOs and are expected to help right off the bat.
Marry is, right now, the fifth linebacker and penciled in to back up senior Allen Walker. Odds are he will play significantly and will be on special teams. Whigham is backing up Dorsey at DE and had a good spring. Most likely, he'll play and be in the DE rotation. Swindall will most likely be the backup center and could have PT opportunities.
QB Jeremiah Masoli, who has multiple seasons starting in the Pac-10, will definitely impact the team. That's a "duh" statement if there ever was one.
Obviously, JUCO QB/Athlete Randall Mackey will be expected to engage at a high level and be a playmaker almost immediately. He has that quality in his resume'.
From there, it gets a little dicier.
The Rebs may need some help from a defensive end if Whigham, Gerald Rivers or Jason Jones falter for any reason. With his pedigree and having put in a full summer at Ole Miss, Carlos Thompson has a legitimate shot to contribute.
The Rebs need immediate help at wide receiver from a depth perspective. When Vincent Sanders qualifies, he'll have an opening. Will he be mature enough to handle it like Grandy did a year ago? He missed summer workouts so it will be difficult, but you never know.
Ole Miss can use some more help at linebacker - Clarence Jackson and Ralph Williams, are you listening? If they listen intently enough, they have a shot, aka, Shack and Kight from last year.
RB Jeff Scott is a 10.3 100 meter guy. Although he wasn't cleared until yesterday, and although the Rebs are stacked up pretty good at TB, you can't teach that kind of speed, so look for him to get an opportunity to show his mettle and maturity with the ball on the edge.
DS Will Denny should compete for snapping duties, especially since number one snapper Wesley Phillips injured his knee in spring training and has been rehabbing a lot since, and Will has been in camp this summer, already snapping a lot to the holders and punters.
It's not very likely any of the linemen, outside of Thompson on the defensive side, are going to have much of an opening for playing time, even though some of them have very good credentials.
S Brishen Mathews has created a "workaholic" buzz in summer camp, so he's got a shot from some special teams duty and maybe even some safety duty if he catches on quickly.
At fullback, Nicholas Parker, if he's not a tailback, and Martez Eastland have great credentials and FB may be a position of need.
The Reb coaches are always looking for a polished cornerback. Cliff Coleman, come on down. Show us what you got.
And who knows who the suprises Nutt mentioned may be?
We'll find out in short order which freshman answer the question "who will play immediately?"
Until then, it's a big guess.
And as soon as next signing day is over, the same question will start all over again.
"Who out of this class will play as a freshman?"
The answer: your guess is as good as any.