Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Ole Miss Rebels

Ole Miss Rebels
It's going to be an interesting season in Oxford, as the drama around this program continues to unfold off of the field. The team is in a self imposed bowl ban, and the school and Hugh Freeze are being sued by former coach Houston Nutt, who the current staff is trying to blame some violations on, when that is clearly not the case. With no bowl to play for, and a whole bunch of violation related material still at play, how does this team maintain focus for what could be a lame duck coach in 2017?

UPDATE 7/20/17: Hugh Freeze has resigned as Ole Miss Head Football Coach, due to a scandal involving the usage of a known escort service. The scandal emanated from the Houston Nutt lawsuit, as it was his lawyer who found the phone numbers in a record check in preperation for the suit. 

What To Be Excited About: Offense
Van Jefferson and DeKaylin Metcalf are back to start at receiver, and caught a combined 71 passes a year ago. Of course, the unit has to go a long way to offset the personnel losses of last fall, but we will go into that in the next section.
Shea Patterson showed some flash while playing for the injured Chad Kelly a bit last fall, and will be the new starting QB for the Rebels this fall. He showed that he could be effective as a runner as well as a passer, but his accuracy numbers need an upgrade to get the Rebels running, especially on an offense with so many holes already needing to be filled.
Gary Wunderlich was basically automatic at PK last season, as he hit 22/23 FG attempts. He will be back in play in 2017 as a senior.
What To be Concerned About: Offense
The unit is a bit of a mess after losing Chad Kelly at QB, Evan Engram at TE, Demore'ea Stringfellow and Quincy Adeboyejo at WR, and others, including RB Akeem Judge.
Trying to replace that much talent is overwhelming all at once, and the recruits have not always been as good as advertised.
The line could be an area of concern as well, as there is no senior leadership projected into the starting lineup.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The line looks about 50% effective with the return of DE Marquis Haynes and DT Benito Jones. They combined for 15.5 TFLs last fall. They also combined for 92 total tackles on the season.
DeMarqus Gates will be back at LB, and led the team in tackles last fall with 79. He also added 5.5 TFLs last season, and will be a major threat from the middle of the field.
Will Gleeson and Wunderlich shared the Punter job last season, but Gleeson is back, and averaged a strong 44.11 yards per punt.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
While half of the line is quite good, the other half is completely unproven at this point. Breeland Speaks is back at NT, while Victor Evans is back at DE. They finished with a combined 4.5 TFLs last season.
While Gates is solid at LB, Detric Bing-Jukes did not play all that well last season, finishing with just 41 total tackles on the season. Only 19 of those tackles were solo jobs.
The secondary may very well start the season as the worst in the SEC. There are no identifiable ball hawks who can really get after the football, and no play makers across the board.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 South Alabama, 9/9 UT-Martin, 9/16 at California, 9/30 at Alabama, 10/7 at Auburn, 10/14 Vanderbilt, 10/21 LSU, 10/28 Arkansas, 11/4 at Kentucky, 11/11 UL-Lafayette, 11/18 Texas A&M, 11/23 at Mississippi State
Final Overview
In all honesty, I cannot fathom why Hugh Freeze is still employed as the head coach at Ole Miss. The amount of potential damage that he has wrought upon the university is staggering, and it is starting to show up in the recruiting battles, as recruits will stay away from the Rebels until the smoke clears. This is probably the least talented team that has hit the field under Freeze, and with all of the drama ongoing, and the bowl ban, it is hard for me to see this team really playing with a high level of effectiveness in 2017. The record really does nt matter, as this team is going nowhere in the postseason anyway. I see, at best, a five win team, and Freeze should be shown the door to give this program a shot at a clean slate and fresh start.

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