Ole Miss preview

Brent Schaeffer was good enough to start at quarterback for Tennessee as a first-game freshman back in 2004. Now he may not be good enough to start for Ole Miss as a fourth-year senior in 2007.

Although head coach Ed Orgeron anointed him the Rebels' No. 1 quarterback before he even reported to campus from junior college in the spring of 2006, Schaeffer struggled mightily last fall. He completed just 47 percent of his passes with more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (9).

Schaeffer's struggles continued this spring. He completed just 2 of 5 passes for 13 yards in the Rebels' spring game and is in danger of losing his first-team job to Seth Adams, a former walk-on. Adams completed 16 of 20 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown in the spring game and is projected by some to start ahead of the electrifying but inconsistent Schaeffer this fall.

With a 7-16 overall record and a 3-13 SEC mark to show for his first two seasons in Oxford, Orgeron is feeling some heat heading into Year 3. As a result, he spent the off-season doing what all hot-seat coaches do ... shuffling his staff.

Orgeron gave John Thompson the defensive coordinator duties, a chore Orgeron formerly performed himself. Thompson is no stranger to the SEC, having previously assisted at Florida, Alabama, LSU, Arkansas and South Carolina.

Orgeron also promoted David Corrao from grad assistant to linebackers coach, switched Tony Hughes from defensive backs to tight ends and moved Hugh Freeze from tight ends to wide receivers. Freeze fills the void left by Matt Lubick's departure for Arizona State.

If Ole Miss can find some stability at quarterback, its offense should be solid. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is one of the SEC's better backs after rushing for more than 1,000 yards in 2006. The line, led by All-America candidate Michael Oher, should be very good. Former quarterback Robert Lane is an inviting target at tight end, having caught 11 passes for 155 yards in 2006. The Rebels are hoping for big things at receiver from 6-foot-6 junior college transfer A.J. Jackson.

Defensively, Ole Miss should be slightly better in the line and secondary. However, the linebacker corps must be rebuilt after losing all three 2006 starters. Patrick Willis was picked in Round 1 of the NFL Draft, Rory Johnson elected to bypass his senior season and Garry Pack was dismissed from the team for violating team rules.

Although Orgeron got a two-year extension this spring that carries through the 2010 season, this is a critical year for the former Southern Cal aide. If he doesn't show improvement in Year 3, there may not be a Year 4.


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