Ole Miss Football Spring Outlook
Two-time All-American Evan Engram (photo by Joshua McCoy)
March 2, 2016

2016 Ole Miss Football Pre-Spring Information Get Acrobat Reader

OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss started spring football practice Wednesday as the Rebels begin preparations for the 2016 season. Below are a few notes about 2016 spring practice and a position-by-position team outlook.

  • Spring practice started Wednesday and runs through April 9.
  • Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze will hold a 1 p.m. press conference Thursday that will be streamed live on SEC Network+.
  • There will be no spring game this year due to construction at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

SPRING OUTLOOK

The Rebels head into spring ball coming off one of the most exciting seasons in school history, seeing the Rebels post a 10-3 mark and make their first Sugar Bowl appearance since 1970, routing Oklahoma State 48-20.

Hugh Freeze is the first Ole Miss coach to lead his teams to bowl appearances in each of his four seasons at the helm, and the Rebels have increased their win total each year under the Mississippi native.

The 2015 Rebels' 10-win season was the first for Ole Miss since the 2003 campaign. Ole Miss has posted back-to-back nine-win regular seasons for the first time since 1962.

In February, Ole Miss hauled in the No. 4 class in the nation, its fourth straight top-15 rated signing class to ensure that the program keeps trending upward in talent and depth. Eight of the 2016 signees are enrolled in class and available to participate in spring drills.

The Rebels welcome back 61 lettermen and eight position starters from last season, including three starters on the offensive side and five on defense. Many early predictions have Ole Miss ranked among the top 20 teams in college football for 2016.

Below is a position-by-position breakdown entering spring drills.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Ole Miss returns the top signal caller in the SEC in senior Chad Kelly, named second team All-SEC and the SEC Newcomer of the Year (Athlon).
  • Last season, Kelly broke or tied 14 single-season school records, including total offense yards, touchdowns responsible for, passing yards and completion percentage.
  • Kelly threw for 300 yards in eight of the team's 13 games last season, the most in school history.
  • Ole Miss also landed the No. 1 QB prospect in the nation in Shea Patterson, who will be available for spring practice after enrolling early.
  • Redshirt-freshman Jason Pellerin is the only other returning scholarship QB, as 2015 backups Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade have both left the team.

RUNNING BACKS

  • The Rebels must replace three-year starter Jaylen Walton, who was the leading rusher last season with 730 yards and finished his career ranked second in school history in all-purpose yards.
  • To replace Walton, the Rebels will look to upperclassmen Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins. Both carried the ball more than 70 times last season while averaging more than five yards a carry.
  • Eugene Brazley and redshirt-freshman Eric Swinney will add depth to the backfield. Swinney was a highly rated signee in 2015, but was lost to injury before the season began.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Ole Miss returns eight lettermen from last season at the wide receiver position.
  • The Rebels have to replace Kelly's No. 1 target Laquon Treadwell, who left for the NFL Draft as Ole Miss' all-time leading pass catcher with 202 receptions in three seasons.
  • Ole Miss will look to the likes of Quincy Adeboyejo and Damore'ea Stringfellow to fill Treadwell's production. They finished second and third, respectively, last season in receiving touchdowns.
  • Other potential contributors include Markell Pack, Damarkus Lodge and Van Jefferson.
  • Highly rated signees K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown and Tre Nixon will join the team this fall.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Ole Miss boasts the SEC's top tight end in Evan Engram, a three-time All-SEC pick and a two-time All-America selection.
  • Engram already holds the school records for receptions (97) and receiving yards (1,394) by a tight end. He set an Ole Miss TE record with 662 receiving yards in 2014.
  • A total of four lettermen return at the position.
  • The Rebels added highly rated signees Gabe Angel, Octavious Cooley and Jacob Mathis. Angel is available for spring drills.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Ole Miss lost all five starters from last season but returns Robert Conyers, Jordan Sims, Rod Taylor, Javon Patterson and Sean Rawlings who all saw significant action in 2015.
  • The Rebels have to replace Chad Kelly's blindside protector after three-year starter and All-America selection Laremy Tunsil declared for the NFL Draft. Tunsil is considered a likely choice for the top pick in year's draft.
  • Greg Little, a 5-star recruit, will join the team in the fall and is a strong candidate to take over left tackle duties.
  • Conyers offers flexibility upfront with his ability to play both center and tackle effectively.
  • The Rebels added three 4-star signees in Bryce Mathews, Royce Newman and Chandler Tuitt who will provide depth in the fall.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

  • The Rebels return two starters from last season in Fadol Brown and Marquis Haynes.
  • Haynes followed up his Freshman All-America season by once again wreaking havoc in opponents' backfields. His 10 sacks tied the single-season school record and gives him 17.5 sacks in his career.
  • Ole Miss will have to replace vocal leader J. Johnson, who accumulated 180 tackles in his five-year career as a Rebel.
  • Highly rated signee Charles Wiley is with the team this spring.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

  • The return of Issac Gross, who missed 12 games last season due to injury, will help bolster the defense upfront.
  • The most notable departure from the defense is two-time All-America selection Robert Nkemdiche. Nkemdiche had anchored the Rebels' defensive line for the last three seasons.
  • Ole Miss will look for Breeland Speaks to take another step forward after a successful redshirt-freshman campaign. He and senior J. Jones will be looked to fill the holes left by Nkemdiche and Woodrow Hamilton.
  • 5-star signee Benito Jones will be available for spring practice to begin competing for snaps in the fall.

LINEBACKERS

  • The Rebels return the leading tackler from 2015 in DeMarquis Gates, who recorded 76 stops during the season.
  • Ole Miss will have to replace vocal leader J. Johnson, who accumulated 180 tackles in his five-year career as a Rebel.
  • Between Johnson, Denzel Nkemdiche and Christian Russell, Ole Miss lost 19 of the 26 starts by its linebackers last season.
  • Outside of Gates, Terry Caldwell is the only other returning LB to make a start last season.

SAFETIES/HUSKIES

  • Tony Conner is a three-year starter at Huskie. He will look to return to his All-SEC form of 2014 after his junior season in 2015 was hampered by a knee injury.
  • The Rebels lost two very valuable pieces of their secondary in Trae Elson and Mike Hilton.
  • Elston was a four-year starter at Rover. He finished second on the team in tackles last season and first in interceptions, earning various All-America honors. Hilton was as versatile as they come, starting at every position in the Ole Miss defensive backfield during his career.
  • After another year under their belts, juniors J. Hampton, A.J. Moore and C.J. Moore will be looked to fill the holes left by Elston and Hilton.
  • The Rebels signed the No. 1 safety in the nation in Deontay Anderson, who will join the team in the fall and should play a factor in the secondary.

CORNERBACKS

  • Ole Miss returns both players that made every start at cornerback last season in Tony Bridges and Kendarius Webster.
  • Bridges finished second on the team last season with three interceptions.
  • Carlos Davis, Kailo Moore and Cam Ordway saw playing time last season and will be counted on to provide depth at the position.

SPECIALISTS

  • Ole Miss' special teams will look very familiar this fall, as the Rebels return the placekicker, punter, kickoff specialist and long snapper.
  • Gary Wunderlich and Will Gleeson return as the starting placekicker and punter, respectively.
  • Wunderlich also saw spot duty at punter last year.
  • Will Few is expected to serve as the long snapper for the second consecutive season.
  • The Rebels will have to replace the holder for field goals and PATs after Ryan Buchanan's
Follow Ole Miss Football on Twitter at @OleMissFB, as well as Facebook and Instagram. For more information, visit www.OleMissSports.com.
 

 

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