Are The Rebels Set To Compete In 2014?
After a dream recruiting class in February, Ole Miss has followed up with a 6-3 season thus far.
Last year, the Rebels didn't get their sixth win until the 12th game against Mississippi State, and they combined for six wins from 2010-11.
With three games (and a bowl) still to go, Ole Miss can make a little noise with Missouri still on the schedule. A win over the Tigers could mess up the SEC East and give the Rebels a shot at a bowl game on or around New Year's Day.
While the Rebels won't have a chance to play for the SEC championship in Atlanta, they are set up to compete in the future. But do they have the pieces the make a lot of noise in 2014?
Who They're Losing
The biggest player the Rebels will lose is running back Jeff Scott. Although Scott has missed the last three games, he'll be sorely missed in 2014. Thus far, he's rushed for 434 yards, including 164 against Texas.
Ja-Mes Logan, the Rebels' second-leading receiver with 386 yards, is also a senior and will be gone next year.
The offensive line will lose three starters. Pierce Burton and Emmanuel McCrary's graduation will force the Rebels to find new starters to protect Bo Wallace from defensive ends. Center Evan Swindall also will graduate.
Linebacker Mike Marry (31 total tackles) and defensive end Cameron Whigham (27 tackles, 1.5 sacks) will also graduate.
In truth, the only place where it's going to hurt the Rebels is on the offensive line. Replacing three starters is never ideal.
Players Who Will Get A Look
D.K. Buford is one of the bigger commitments for the Rebels thus far, ranking as a four-star running back, according to Rivals.com. Ranked as the No. 15 running back in the nation, Buford will be able to come in and immediately compete for the starting job.
Of course, last year's recruit Jordan Wilkins will compete as well. He's a bigger back (215 pounds) and likely will be used between the tackles, while Buford could be Ole Miss' version of Mr. Outside.
Laremy Tunsil is another player who will make a difference. He'll slide into one of those vacated offensive tackle positions.
The 2013 class had a lot of good players and many of them will get their chance next year. Robert Nkemdiche and Laquon Treadwell already have made an impact from that class and 2014 will be the year for others to make their mark as well.
Are The Pieces In Place?
There's no doubt the Rebels have solid pieces on the team moving forward. But to think they'll overtake the likes of Alabama and LSU is unimaginable.
The Crimson Tide and Tigers reload with talent every year, and it's hard for any program in the country (much less the SEC West) to keep up with both programs. Auburn, too, is much improved under new coach Gus Malzahn.
If Ole Miss wants to compete for an SEC title, it is going to need solid recruiting classes three and four years in a row. Until they do that, they'll be in the middle of the pack in the SEC West.
However, the Rebels don't have near the talent committed for 2014 that they did this past year.