Feb. 26, 2018
2018 Pre-Spring Prospectus
OXFORD, Miss. - Ole Miss will hit the practice fields to officially open 2018 spring football drills on Tuesday.
Spring practice will culminate with the annual Grove Bowl on Saturday, April 7. Kickoff of the intrasquad scrimmage is set for 1 p.m. CT and will be televised by ESPNU.
In addition to the Grove Bowl, two other Saturday practices -- this Saturday, March 3, and March 24 -- will be open to the public as part of Ole Miss' Year of the Fan. All other practices are closed.
Saturday's practice is set for 11 a.m. in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, and fans should enter through the west gates. If weather forces the team indoors, the practice will be closed to the public. Follow the Rebels on Twitter (@OleMissFB) for any updates.
In advance of his first spring as Rebel head coach, Matt Luke will address the media prior to Tuesday's practice, and that press conference will be streamed live on SEC Network+ (ESPN app), Facebook Live (OleMissFootball) and OleMissSports.com.
Below is an outlook and position-by-position breakdown heading into spring ball.
2018 SPRING OUTLOOK
Headed into the 2018 season, Ole Miss is looking to build off the momentum gained at the end of last season, winning three of its last four games including a 31-28 Egg Bowl win at No. 14 Mississippi State.
After having the interim title removed after the 2017 season, head coach Matt Luke and the Rebels return 56 lettermen, including eight starters from the offensive side of the ball and seven from the Landshark defense. That group will be joined by a top-25 recruiting class that Luke's staff inked in February.
Offensive coordinator Phil Longo returns for his second season spearheading the Ole Miss offense and has a bevy of weapons at his disposal. Junior All-American and Conerly Trophy winner A.J. Brown returns after setting the Ole Miss single-season record with 1,252 yards. DaMarkus Lodge and D.K. Metcalf join Brown to form one of the most explosive receiving corps in the country. The trio combined for 25 touchdowns last season.
Jordan Ta'amu will man the QB spot for the Rebels after starting the last five games behind center. Ta'amu completed over 66 percent of his passes and threw for 1,682 yards and 11 TDs, including three straight 365-plus yard performances to begin his Ole Miss career. The Rebels also return four of five starters on the talented offensive line.
On the defensive side of the ball, Wesley McGriff and the Rebels will have some big shoes to fill with the loss of all-conference performers Marquis Haynes and Breeland Speaks. Haynes, Ole Miss' modern-era leader in both sacks and tackles for loss, graduated and Speaks decided to forgo his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. The duo combined to record 115 tackles and accounted for more than half of Ole Miss' 29 sacks.
Also gone is DeMarquis Gates, who led the Rebels in tackles for three straight seasons. Gates' 114 tackles in 2017 were the most by any Rebels defender since Patrick Willis recorded 137 in 2006.
Defensive tackles Josiah Coatney and Benito Jones, as well as defensive backs Zedrick Woods, Myles Hartsfield, Jaylon Jones and Ken Webster are all returning starters who will look to anchor the Rebel defense in 2018.
• Jordan Ta'amu returns after starting the final five games of the season.
• Ta’amu went 3-2 and closed the season strong.
• The rising senior completed 115-of-173 passes for 1,682 yards. Ta'amu tallied 11 touchdown passes compared to just four interceptions. He also ran for four scores.
• In his first career start, Ta'amu threw for 368 yards, the most passing yards ever by an Ole Miss QB making his first career start.
• Alex Faniel and newcomer Matt Corral are expected to compete for snaps behind Ta’amu.
• Jordan Wilkins was the team’s leading rusher in 2017 with 155 carries for 1,011 rushing yards, averaging 6.5 yards per carry, nine rushing TDs, 26 receptions, 241 receiving yards and one receiving TD.
• D’Vaughn Pennamon, D.K. Buford, Eric Swinney and newcomers Scottie Phillips and Isaiah Woullard will be battling for the workload in the backfield. Both Phillips and Woullard were early enrollees and will participate in spring camp.
• Armani Linton will also help add depth as the former defensive back has moved over to the offensive side of the ball.
• Phillips, a transfer from Jones County Junior College, was the top-rated junior college running back.
• Rebels return five lettermen from last year’s team.
• A.J. Brown, an All-America selection by the Associated Press and Phil Steele, totaled 75 catches for an Ole Miss single-season record 1,252 yards.
• DaMarkus Lodge caught 41 balls for 698 yards and seven touchdowns. Lodge tallied two multiple touchdown games and went over the 100-yard receiving mark twice.
• D.K. Metcalf tallied 39 catches for 646 yards and seven touchdowns on his way to earning SEC All-Freshman honors.
• Sophomore Braylon Sanders will also return for the Rebels.
• Newcomer DeMarcus Gregory is a mid-year enrollee and will participate in spring drills. Elijah Moore and Miles Battle are incoming freshmen that will join a talented receiving corps in the fall.
• Dawson Knox led the way for the Ole Miss tight end group during the 2017 season. Knox tallied 10 catches for 324 yards in 10 games and returns in 2018.
• Octavious Cooley, Jason Pellerin, Michael Howard, Jacob Mathis, Gabe Angel and Nick Haynes add depth to the position.
• The veteran group performed well through some attrition in 2017.
• The O-line blocked for Jordan Wilkins on his way to becoming the first 1,000-yard rusher since 2009.
• Ole Miss returns All-SEC left tackle Greg Little, who started every game at the blind side position for the Rebels in 2017.
• Three more Rebel starters return in Alex Givens, Javon Patterson and Sean Rawlings. In addition, Jordan Sims was a 2016 starter.
• Ben Brown, Tony Gray, Eli Johnson, Bryce Mathews, Royce Newman, Samuel Plash and Chandler Tuitt return to add depth.
• Rebels lose two all-conference ends in Marquis Haynes and Breeland Speaks.
• Haynes, Ole Miss' modern-era sack leader, graduated and Speaks decided to forgo his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. The pair combined for 115 tackles and accounted for more than half of Ole Miss' 29 sacks.
• Victor Evans (18 tackles), Qaadir Sheppard, Markel Winters, Shawn Curtis, Amani Johnson, Ryder Anderson and Brenden Williams return from last season to fill their shoes.
• The Rebels return former Freshman All-American Benito Jones, Josiah Coatney, Austrian Robinson, Ross Donelly, Sincere David and Jordan Herbert.
• Coatney tallied 65 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
• Jones compiled 1.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss.
• Hal Northern earned 2017 NJCAA first team All-America honors and will participate in spring drills for the Rebels.
• Noah Jefferson, K.D. Hill, James Williams and Quentin Bivens are newcomers who will add depth come the fall.
• The Rebels lost DeMarquis Gates (114 tackles) and Tayler Polk (39 tackles, one sack) to graduation.
• Willie Hibbler, Josh Clarke, Donta Evans, Zikerrion Baker, Detric Bing-Dukes, Mohamed Sanogo, Jack Raborn and Ryan Labanc return from last year’s team.
• Bing-Dukes, a senior from Tucker, Georgia, is the returning leading tackler for the Rebels with 24 stops last season.
• Jacquez Jones, Jonathan Hess, Luke Knox and Kevontae’ Ruggs will all report to fall camp to battle for snaps.
• The Rebels return all but one cornerback from the 2017 squad.
• Returning is a core of upperclassmen in Ken Webster, Javien Hamilton, Myles Hartsfield and Montrell Custis. Sophomore D.D. Bowie also returns for Ole Miss.
• Hartsfield recorded 42 tackles, three break-ups and two interceptions in 2017.
• Webster had 29 tackles and a pair of pass break-ups last season.
• Kidreon Smith and JaKorey Hawkins are newcomers to this group that will join the team in the fall.
• Ole Miss returns a veteran nucleus of Zedrick Woods (64 tackles, four break-ups), C.J. Moore (51 tackles, three interceptions), Jaylon Jones, Cam Ordway and C.J. Miller.
• Junior college transfer Vernon Dasher who will participate in spring drills and will play the Star position for the Rebels.
• Cameron White is a newcomer to the group as well and will report in the fall.
• The Rebels must replace all-time leading scorer Gary Wunderlich on field goal duties as well as punter Will Gleeson.
• Luke Logan made 2-of-3 field goals last season and will assume kicking duties.
• Mac Brown punted five times and averaged 42.2 yards per punt.
• Junior Jaylon Jones will handle kick return duties again in 2018 after finishing third in the SEC with 25.0 yards per return last season.
• Ole Miss added the Mississippi 6A High School Player of the Year in Tylan Knight in its 2018 class. Knight can play on both sides of the ball and could see time in the defensive backfield.
Follow Ole Miss Football on Twitter (@OleMissFB), Facebook and Instagram. For more information, visit www.OleMissSports.com.