2009 Ole Miss Rebels Football Preview
2008 Record: (9-4, 5-3)
2008 Bowl: Cotton Bowl vs. Texas Tech (W 47-34)
Coach: Houston Nutt (9-4 at Mississippi, 120-74 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Kent Austin
Defensive Coordinator: Tyrone Nix
Other Key Returnees: LB Jonathan Cornell, RB Cordera Eason, C Daverin Geralds, CB Marshay Green, TE Gerald Harris, OT John Jerry, DT Ted Laurent, DE Kentrell Lockett, DE Marcus Tillman, CB Cassius Vaughn, LB Allen Walker
Key Losses: DE Chris Bowers, FB Jason Cook, LB Tony Fein, S Terrell Jackson, DT Peria Jerry, G Maurice Miller, CB Dustin Mouzon, OT Michael Oher, LB Ashlee Palmer, S Jamarca Sanford, WR Mike Wallace
Former coach Ed Orgeron brought a lot of talent into Mississippi, but it took Houston Nutt to turn that talent into victories. Ole Miss ended the 2008 campaign on a six game winning streak and that does not even count their win over Florida. There are some big losses on both lines, but everybody in the SEC will be keeping a close eye on the Rebels as their expectations go through the roof.
Ole Miss's Strengths:
Jevan Snead has turned into a solid quarterback and he has a few dynamic weapons to work with, most notably Dexter McCluster and Shay Hodge. McCluster actually led the team in rushing yards with 655 and rushing touchdowns with six. But he also tied Hodge with a team high 44 receptions. Defensive tackle Peria Jerry was a first round draft pick, but the Rebels front seven will still be dominating. Last year Mississippi only allowed the opposition to rush for 85.5 yards per game. While Jerry was certainly a big part of that success, the line will still be dominating off the end with Greg Hardy, Kentrell Lockett and Marcus Tillman. The linebackers lose a couple key pieces, but Jonathan Cornell is ready to become a leader.
Ole Miss's Weaknesses:
Safety Kendrick Lewis is a superb player who led the team in tackles and interceptions, but the secondary gave up the most passing yards in the SEC. Corners Marshay Green and Cassius Vaughn have to do a better job and they will be without part-time starter Dustin Mouzon. For a team that does such a great job getting to the quarterback, the secondary should not get beat as badly and as often as they do. Perhaps the most painful loss is that of offensive tackle Michael Oher. He was not always consistent, but his massive presence will certainly be missed. Coach Nutt loves to run the ball and that will be more difficult without Oher. But it will be easier with running backs Cordera Eason and Brandon Bolden returning.
The Bottom Line for the Rebels:
Mississippi could be a sleeper in the SEC. They have a solid quarterback in Snead, a couple quality wide receivers, a stable of capable running backs and a dynamic playmaker in McCluster. However, the difference between a good year and a great year will be the play of both lines. How quickly can the Rebels replace Jerry and Oher? It all starts with the lines and if they struggle, the Mississippi offense and defense will not be as good as they should be.
By Joel Welser
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