Chucky Mullins Courage Award winner Deterrian Shackelford (photo by Joshua McCoy)
May 13, 2014
2014 Spring Review
Ole Miss is enjoying a great deal of excitement about the direction of the program under head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff, and the spring practice season did nothing to dampen that enthusiasm.
The Rebels' 15 days of spring drills, culminating with the 2014 Regions Bank Grove Bowl, were filled with energy and effort that Freeze praised regularly. It seems that the Ole Miss players are ready to do something special with the talent and depth that returns from last season.
In just two seasons at the helm, Freeze has turned around the Rebels' fortunes with back-to-back bowl victories and winning seasons. This past fall, Ole Miss defeated Georgia Tech 25-17 in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl to finish with an 8-5 record and their most wins since 2009.
In February, Ole Miss secured its place among the nation's best in recruiting with a second straight top-15 rated class that will further bolster the team's talent and depth. Six of the 2014 signees are enrolled in classes and participated in spring drills.
The Rebels welcome back 60 lettermen and 15 position starters from last season, including nine starters on the defensive side. Look for the speed and intensity to ramp up once again in year three of the Hugh Freeze era.
Below is a position-by-position breakdown upon the conclusion of spring drills.
• Record-setting signal caller Bo Wallace returns at quarterback and went through spring drills healthy for the first time since 2012.
• Wallace ranks top three in school history in career total yards, passing yards, completions, completion percentage, passing efficiency and 300-yard games.
• With Barry Brunetti lost to graduation, redshirt-freshmen DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan battled for the back-up spot throughout the spring, while JUCO transfer Jeremy Liggins and early enrollee Kendrick Doss also took snaps behind center.
• Four lettermen return, including last year's top two rushers in I'Tavius Mathers (563 yards) and Jaylen Walton (523 yards).
• Jeff Scott, who finished his career fourth in school history in all-purpose yards, was lost to graduation.
• Mark Dodson returns after seeing limited action as a freshman, while redshirt freshmen Jordan Wilkins and Eugene Brazley add even more to the battle for playing time.
• Highly rated JUCO signee Akeem Judd will join the team this fall.
• Donte Moncrief leaves big shoes to fill after departing early for the NFL Draft, but Ole Miss returns good talent among the seven returning lettermen from last year.
• Laquon Treadwell headlines the corps after earning 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year honors and breaking virtually every Ole Miss freshman receiving record with 72 catches, 608 yards and five TDs.
• Vince Sanders, Quincy Adeboyejo, Cody Core and Collins Moore are all expected to take on larger roles. Moore earned the Eli Manning Award as the spring's most improved offensive player.
• Two signees from Mississippi - Markell Pack and Dayall Harris - will join the team in the fall.
• Evan Engram, who became one of the first two freshmen in school history to be named All-SEC, returns for his sophomore year. He had 21 catches for 268 yards and three TDs last year.
• A total of seven lettermen return at the position, most of them providing practice depth.
• Nicholas Parker, who started three games last fall when Engram was hurt, also returns.
• Converted defensive end Channing Ward saw all of his snaps at tight end this spring.
• Signee Sammie Epps will join the team this fall.
• The Rebels have to replace three starters from last year who have graduated – left guard Jared Duke, center Evan Swindall and right tackle Pierce Burton.
• Laremy Tunsil, who became one of the first two freshmen in school history to be named All-SEC, returns at left tackle.
• Justin Bell started at right guard last year and held down the left guard spot in the spring.
• A total of eight lettermen return along the OL.
• Ben Still and Robert Conyers took most of the snaps at center this spring. Still ended the spring at No. 1, while Conyers is No. 1 at right tackle.
• Aaron Morris was limited in spring drills, but will return at left guard this fall after suffering a torn ACL in the season opener and missing all of the 2013 season.
• Other players to watch in the battle for playing time include Daronte Bouldin, Davion Johnson, Christian Morris and Carlton Martin.
• Five signees will join the team this fall, including highly rated recruits Fahn Cooper (JUCO transfer), Rod Taylor and Jordan Sims.
• Five lettermen return from last year, including starter Bryon Bennett.
• The Rebels lost starter Cameron Whigham to graduation.
• C.J. Johnson, considered one of the best players on the Ole Miss defense, returned from an ankle injury and looked good in spring drills.
• Look for Fadol Brown, a transfer from FIU who sat out last season, to make an impact this fall after a productive spring.
• Mid-year enrollee Marquis Haynes also impressed the coaches during spring drills.
• Highly rated signee Breeland Speaks is among those who will join the team this fall.
• Five lettermen return from last year, including starters Woodrow Hamilton and Freshman All-American Robert Nkemdiche.
• Issac Gross, a part-time starter who led the Rebels in sacks, also returns.
• Seniors Lavon Hooks and Bryon Bennett should also contribute in the fall after seeing interior line action this spring.
• Highly regarded signees Garrald McDowell and Chris Williams join the team in the fall.
• All-SEC picks Serderius Bryant and Denzel Nkemdiche lead of group of six returning lettermen from last year.
• Bryant had a career year in 2013, topping Ole Miss with 78 tackles and 12.5 TFLs to go with 3.0 sacks and three forced fumbles.
• Team leader Deterrian Shackelford, who became the first ever two-time winner of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award, showed this spring that he could be a candidate to replace graduated middle linebacker Mike Marry.
• JUCO transfer Christian Russell and sophomore Temario Strong also impressed at middle linebacker this spring.
• Others expected to contribute include Keith Lewis and Ray Ray Smith.
• Signees DeMarquis Gates and A.J. Moore will join the team in the fall.
• Four impact players return, including starters Cody Prewitt (Free Safety), Trae Elston (Rover) and Tony Conner (Huskie).
• Prewitt was named a first team All-American after posting 71 tackles, 4.5 TFLs and an SEC-best six interceptions last year.
• Conner earned Freshman All-America accolades after making 66 tackles, 5.0 TFLs and seven passes defended in 12 starts.
• Chief Brown moved over to Huskie this spring and can play any of the three positions.
• The talented duo of Anthony Alford (transfer from Southern Miss who sat out last season) and C.J. Hampton (early enrollee) intensified the competition this spring and are expected to help at Rover and free safety, respectively.
• The Rebels return seven of nine lettermen at cornerback, including starters Senquez Golson and Mike Hilton.
• Charles Sawyer was lost to graduation.
• Derrick Jones made four starts as a freshman last year and has the potential to break out as a star this season.
• Senior Cliff Coleman earned the Jeff Hamm Memorial Award as the spring's most improved defensive player.
• Sophomore Kailo Moore moved to corner from running back this spring. He and Carlos Davis provide the cornerback position with two of the team's fastest players.
• Ole Miss will add highly regarded signees Tee Shepard (JUCO transfer) and Kendarius Webster in the fall.
• Ole Miss has to replace last year's starting kicker (Andrew Ritter) and punter (Tyler Campbell).
• Competing for the kicker role this spring were Andy Pappanastos and Andrew Fletcher.
• Australian Will Gleeson and Grant Warren shared punting duties in the spring.
• Ole Miss adds the nation's No. 1 kicker prospect this fall in Gary Wunderlich, who has potential at both field goals and punts.
• Will Denny returns at long snapper, while the Rebels look for a replacement at holder with the graduation of Chris Conley. Candidates include Ryan Buchanan and John Ratliff.