May 8, 2013
Spring Review (PDF)
The last few months have created quite a buzz with Ole Miss Football.
In its first season under the leadership of Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss won seven games and earned the program’s first bowl berth since 2009. A 41-24 rout of Mississippi State made the Rebels bowl eligible, and they capped off the season with a 38-17 triumph over Pitt in front of an ecstatic fan base at the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham.
The momentum was bolstered the next month by the best recorded signing class in school history, ranked as high as No. 2 nationally by 247Sports and No. 5 by ESPN.
A fast-paced series of spring practices followed in March and April. Despite a number of injuries that sidelined some of the Rebels' top players, the spring was capped in front of approximately 28,000 fans at the 2013 BancorpSouth Grove Bowl inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Freeze and the Rebel coaching staff welcome back 58 lettermen from last season, including 19 of 22 position starters, and look to speed up their tempo offense even more in 2013.
Below is a position-by-position breakdown after the conclusion of spring drills.
• Returning starter Bo Wallace was held out of any throwing drills this spring after offseason clavicle surgery.
• Wallace won the 2012 Conerly Trophy after passing for the third-most yards (2,994) and fourth-most TDs (22) in a season in school history.
• Barry Brunetti and Maikhail Miller saw the majority of spring snaps.
• Brunetti was fourth on the team in rushing last year (277 yards), with three touchdowns.
• Signees Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade will join the team in the fall.
• Six lettermen return, including leading rusher Jeff Scott (846 yards).
• I'Tavius Mathers won the Eli Manning Award as the team's most improved offensive player in the spring.
• Two lettermen were lost to graduation, including co-starter Randall Mackey.
• Scott ranks 9th in school history with 1,804 rushing yards, 9th with 2,966 all-purpose yards and 10th with 15 rushing TDs.
• Rising sophomores Jaylen Walton and Mathers combined for 152 rushing yards in the BBVA Compass Bowl win.
• Highly rated signee Mark Dodson enrolled early out of high school and joined the team for spring drills. He showed off good skills, as did Hinds CC transfer Darryan Ragsdale.
• Other highly rated signees – Eugene Brazley, Kailo Moore and Jordan Wilkins – will join the team in the fall.
• Eight of nine WRs that lettered last year are back, including starters Donte Moncrief and Vince Sanders.
• Moncrief tied the school record with 10 TD catches and racked up 979 receiving yards last year.
• The wideouts accounted for 16 of the team’s 24 TD catches a year ago.
• Others who contributed during the spring were Ja-Mes Logan, Korvic Neat, Cody Core, Jordan Holder and Quadarias Mireles.
• Collins Moore only participated in non-contact drills this spring as he recovered from shoulder surgery.
• Three WR signees, including highly rated recruits Laquon Treadwell and Quincy Adeboyejo, will join the team in the fall.
• Ole Miss has to replace the top three TEs from last year, including full-time starter Ferbia Allen, who was picked up by the Miami Dolphins as a rookie free agent.
• Justin Bigham, who played mostly on special teams, is the lone letterman returning.
• Other players who stepped into the rotation this spring included early enrollee freshman Christian Morgan, along with non-scholarship TEs Matt Brown, Jack Nuismer and Dylan Dyer.
• Morgan missed the second half of spring with a knee injury.
• Joining the team in the fall will be signees Evan Engram and A.J. Jackson.
• The Rebels return four of five starters from last year – left tackle Emmanuel McCray, left guard Aaron Morris, center Evan Swindall and right tackle Pierce Burton.
• Starting right guard A.J. Hawkins graduated and was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs as a rookie free agent.
• Swindall won the team's J. Richard Price Courage and Compassion Award in the spring.
• Morris missed spring drills recovering from shoulder surgery, while Darone Bailey (knee) and Patrick Junen (toe) also missed practice time with injuries.
• A total of 11 lettermen return along the OL.
• Candidates to compete for the starting job at right guard include Junen and Justin Bell.
• Four signees will join the team this fall, including highly rated recruits Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson.
• Three lettermen return from last year, including starters C.J. Johnson and Cameron Whigham.
• The Rebels lost Jason Jones and E.J. Epperson to graduation. Epperson was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs as a rookie free agent.
• Johnson led the team with 6.5 sacks in 2012. He suffered a fracture in his fibula during the first week of spring, but his return by fall camp is expected.
• Johnson's absence allowed back-ups Channing Ward and Carlos Thompson to get more reps with the first team this spring.
• The ends helped Ole Miss lead all SEC teams and rank 4th in the nation in TFLs (7.9/game) and rank 2nd in the SEC and 11th nationally in sacks (2.9/game) in 2012.
• Ole Miss signed the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit, Robert Nkemdiche, who will join the team in the fall.
• Four of six lettermen return from last year, including starters Issac Gross and Bryon Bennett.
• Gilbert Pena and Uriah Grant were lost to graduation. Both were picked up as rookie free agents by NFL teams.
• Gross missed most of the spring recovering from sports hernia surgery, which allowed Woodrow Hamilton and Carlton Martin to earn more reps in his stead.
• Gross was a first team Freshman All-America pick after racking up 40 tackles, 10.0 TFLs and 2.5 sacks.
• The tackles helped Ole Miss lead all SEC teams and rank 4th in the nation in TFLs (7.9/game) and rank 2nd in the SEC and 11th nationally in sacks (2.9/game).
• Top-rated JUCO signee Lavon Hooks joined the team for spring drills and showed impressive athleticism.
• Five lettermen return, including starters Denzel Nkemdiche (OLB) and Mike Marry (MLB).
• Three lettermen were lost, including senior contributors Joel Kight and Aaron Garbutt.
• Nkemdiche was a first team Freshman All-America pick and second team All-SEC selection after leading the team in tackles, TFLs, forced fumbles and interceptions.
• Senior D.T. Shackelford returned to the practice fields after missing two years due to knee injuries and provided immediate energy and leadership.
• Also contributing this spring were Serderius Bryant, Keith Lewis and Temario Strong.
• Seven lettermen return, including starters Cody Prewitt (Free Safety), Trae Elston (Rover) and Dehendret Collins (Huskie), who is now at cornerback.
• Chief Brown won the Jeff Hamm Memorial Award as the team's most improved defensive player in the spring.
• Brown, Quintavius Burdette, Mike Hilton and Brishen Mathews also saw extensive game action last year.
• Highly rated signee Tony Conner will join the team in the fall.
• The Rebels return all but two lettermen at cornerback, including starters Senquez Golson and Charles Sawyer.
• Departed senior Wesley Pendleton signed a rookie free agent deal with the Tampa Bay Bucs.
• Golson tied for the team lead with three interceptions last year.
• Sawyer has started 25 consecutive games for Ole Miss, between corner, strong safety and free safety. He missed the latter portion of the spring with a sprained knee.
• JUCO transfer Nick Brassell made an impact at corner this spring, as well as converted running back Carlos Davis, Dehendret Collins and Anthony Standifer.
• Brassell was a two-way standout at WR and CB for Ole Miss as a freshman in 2011 before transferring to East Mississippi CC.
• Redshirt seniors Tyler Campbell (punter) and Andrew Ritter (kicker) return to lead the special teams group.
• Last year’s starting punter, Jim Broadway, and kicker, Bryson Rose, graduated.
• Other specialists returning include holder Chris Conley and long snapper Will Denny.
• January enrollee Andy Pappanastos should also compete for a kicking role.