Ole Miss: Time To Put Up Or Shut Up
Ole Miss has been looked at as a mid-level SEC school for a few years now, but don't sleep on the Rebels. Hugh Freeze secured stellar recruiting classes the last two years, including a consensus Top 10 group in 2013.
The Rebels finished 8-5 last season, including wins against LSU and Texas and a Music City Bowl victory against Georgia Tech.
But the question Ole Miss fans want answered is, "Are we going to be win 10 games this year?" Let's take a look at this team and see how they stack up to the competition in the SEC West.
Some big names return on defense, including Serderius Bryant, Cody Prewitt and the Nkemdiche brothers. There are studs at every level and expect them to be brutal. This is the most promising group of Ole Miss defensive players since the Patrick Willis days. As an LSU fan, this defense scares the living hell out of me and in my mind only ranks behind Alabama among SEC defenses this season.
An experienced quarterback in Bo Wallace is another positive, but only to a point. The SEC isn't known for breeding top-of-the-line quarterback talent and Wallace is no exception. He is an above-average player who can lead an offense, but he lacks consistency. If Wallace can be a little smarter with the ball and limit his turnovers, the Rebels offense has the potential to be explosive with talents like Laquon Treadwell and Jaylen Walton.
Overall experience is a huge plus for this group. Ole Miss returns six starters on offense and 10 on defense, which further emphasizes my point on how strong this defense will be. But the starters coming back on offense will also be a massive help. The starting quarterback, running back, second-leading wide receiver and three linemen will lead the charge.
Ole Miss has the potential to shock the SEC West and come out on top in the conference...
... but there's a con for every pro, and for Ole Miss, these cons are very important.
This year's hype is similar to 2013 and we know how that worked out. Ole Miss projected to finish in the top three in the SEC West by many, but finished sixth instead, ahead of only Arkansas. The disappointing season forced Rebels fans to question whether this team can compete for a division title, much less a national championship.
Donte Moncrief, last season's leading receiver, now plays for the Indianapolis Colts. That's a big weapon missing from the offense. Luckily, Treadwell will make up for the lost production, but Ole Miss needs to find a second option for Wallace in the air.
Linebacker Mike Marry has graduated and this team will have to find a new defensive leader. It could force talented players to butt heads, so we will see who emerges out of the group.
Leadership in general is this team's biggest question mark. The offseason has featured plenty of negative headlines and brushes with the law. Freeze is a great coach, but he has to make sure he keeps this group under control. With such a talented bunch of players, there should be a sense of urgency and some pressure, and the head coach has to keep his players cool.
It's time for the Rebels to convert potential to reality. Ole Miss will finally be able to break out of their mid-level shell. The only thing going against them is history. Ole Miss has faced expectations in the past and fallen short. Hopefully this year will be different than past years and the Rebels can prove to everyone that they're for real.