OLE MISS

Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-Boise State

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Three areas to watch as Ole Miss opens its 2014 season in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against Boise State from Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

Contrast in Experience

Boise State has one of the youngest teams in the country with 67 freshmen and sophomores among the team's 105-player roster, and the youth is apparent along the offensive line compared to the deep and experienced Ole Miss defensive line.

Boise State returns just 26 starts along its offensive line, tied for the seventh-fewest in the nation. Entering 2014, Marcus Henry had started a team-high 12 games, followed by Rees Odhiambo (eight), Travis Averill (three), Steven Baggett (two) and Mario Yakoo (one).

With their two returning starters switching positions -- Henry moving from right guard to center and Odhiambo moving from right tackle to left tackle -- the Broncos are breaking in a new starter at each position along the offensive line.

Ole Miss returns 59 starts among its two-deep along the defensive line, led by Bryon Bennett with 21 starts, followed by C.J. Johnson (17), Robert Nkemdiche (10), Woodrow Hamilton (nine) and Lavon Hooks (2), not including Issac Gross (11) who may or may not play against Boise State. 

The Rebels also add FIU transfer Fadol Brown and mid-year enrollee Marquis Haynes, who have drawn rave reviews throughout fall practice.

First Live Look at Special Teams

Junior running back Jaylen Walton has served as the team's primary kick returner in each of the last two seasons. Outside of Walton, there are capable but unproven players in many key roles on special teams.

Redshirt freshman punter Will Gleeson has impressed throughout fall practice with his sky punt and coming-out punts, but he has not seen action in a game. 

Senior Andrew Fletcher, who converted both of his PAT tries in the two games he has played, and freshman Gary Wunderlich are listed as co-starters at kicker. 

Sophomore safety Anthony Alford is listed as the starting punt returner, and while he played in nine games with starts at quarterback for Southern Miss in 2012, he has not fielded a punt in game action.

Freeze has talked about the team's depth, and it will likely show on the special teams coverage and return units, but it will be the first significant action for many key players.

Freshman Impact

It might not have the star power of the 2013 signing class, but the coaches have raved about the depth of the 2014 class from top to bottom. Compared to years past, there are far fewer freshmen pressed into significant roles, with just five among the two-deep in Rod Taylor (RG), Marquis Haynes (DE), A.J. Moore (Huskie) Kendarius Webster (BCB) and C.J. Hampton (FS).

"This circus around recruiting now and the social media and everything that builds these kids up to be something so, so phenomenal -- they are good players, but when they get to the real world of this level of football, there are also a lot of good players here," head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday. "We hope that continues to where we don't have to play as many."

In addition to those five, Freeze also mentioned defensive back C.J. Moore, linebacker Demarquis Gates and perhaps wide receiver Markell Pack as freshmen who will get significant snaps in the season opener Thursday.

Look for the freshman impact on special teams, particularly early in the season.

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