Quarterbacks - After spring practices and for the third year in a row, the starting quarterback position is wide open. Randall Mackey saw most of the snaps last season, but has since been moved to wide receiver. Junior college standout Bo Wallace and West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti are the two frontrunners competing for the job, with Mackey still capable as the third string. Brunetti played in five games last season and rushed for 110 yards while passing for 144 in his option style attack. Wallace had a stellar season at East Mississippi Community College as he completed 67% of his passes for 4,604 yards and 53 TDs. Wallace probably has a slight edge after the spring, but Freeze hasn’t ruled out playing both QB’s in his newly implemented high-tempo offense.
Running backs - The Rebels lost their lead back Brandon Bolden to graduation last season, but Jeff Scott appears primed to take over the torch. The quick and shifty Scott may be the perfect fit in Hugh Freezes’ fast paced offense. Scott has breakaway speed, making him very dangerous when he finds space. He rushed for 529 yards and 6 TDs last season and started multiple games due to Bolden’s injury problems. Senior Devin Thomas and sophomore Nick Parker were limited last season, but 4-star signee I’Tavius Mathers could have an instant impact and should see some time in his first season as a Rebel.
Wide Recievers - Donte Moncrief played beyond his age last season and had a breakout freshman year, especially considering the inconstant play at quarterback. Moncrief lead the team in all receiving categories with 31 receptions, 454 yards and 4 touchdowns. Nick Brassell was another standout freshman receiver last season, but was forced to transfer in the offseason due to academic ineligibility. Ja-Mes Logan had a decent sophomore campaign bringing in 20 receptions for 274 yards. Randall Mackey is also expected to have an immediate impact after his move from QB to WR. Standout senior tight end Jamal Mosley has been suspended indefinitely after an arrest in late June, making Ferbia Allen the top tight end on the depth charts.
Offensive Lineman - Hugh Freeze has stated that the offensive line will probably have the most difficult time adjusting to his new offensive scheme. The group will be very inexperienced after losing tackles Bradley Sowell to graduation and Bobby Massie to the NFL draft. Former starter at guard Matt Hall is no longer on the team due to off the field issues, leaving center Evan Swindall as the only returning starter on the line. Emmanuel McCray is a player to watch on the line as he will step in to start at left tackle, while Pierce Burton is expected to man the right tackle position. Senior A.J. Hawkins and sophomore Aaron Morris will start at right and left guard, respectively.
Defensive Lineman - The Rebels lost two key components on the defensive line from last season, but the unit shouldn’t see too much of a drop off. Former Perk standout Wayne Dorsey and Kentrell Locket battled injuries for much of their Ole Miss careers, but will be missed as they depart for the NFL. The blue-chip linebacker recruit from last season C.J. Johnson was moved to defensive end last season and is expected to be a starter there this season. Senior Gerald Rivers will start at the other defensive end and should help to provide a solid pass rush. 4-star defensive end signee Channing Ward should see considerable playing time in his first year in Oxford. Uriah Grant and Bryon Bennett both return as starters at defensive tackle to round out one of the most solid units on this year’s Rebels defense.
Linebackers - Mike Marry was the leading tackler on the Rebels defense last season with 81 and will be returning for his junior season at middle linebacker. Senior Joel Kight will give the linebacking corps some depth. Sedarius Bryant will start at weak side linebacker after garnering Freshman All-SEC honors last season. Junior Brishen Matthews will likely start at the Husky (hybrid safety/linebacker). The Rebels badly missed one of their biggest playmakers on defense last season at linebacker in D.T. Shackelford. Shackelford missed the entire season with a torn ACL, and then had to have surgery on the same knee again this offseason. His availability is uncertain and while he would be a huge asset to the linebacking corps, it is rumored he has been advised not to play this season.
Defensive Backs- Charles Sawyer is by far the most talented player on the Rebel defense and probably on the entire team. The junior safety was second on the team in tackles last season with 70 and led the defense with 4 interceptions. He is an impact player and should be one of the top defensive backs in the SEC. Nick Brassell was expected to start alongside senior Wesley Pendleton at cornerback, but after his transfer, the second cornerback spot is wide open. Pendleton was solid in his first season out of junior college last year and expected to continue that production. Dehendret Collins and Pascagoula native Senquez Golson will likely battle it out for the remaining starting cornerback spot. Redshirt freshman Chief Brown will start at safety opposite of Charles Sawyer.
Special Teams- Punter Tyler Campbell is among the best punters in the county as evident by his 46.4 yard per punt average in 2010, which was the best in the nation. Kicker Bryson Rose has been equally effective, hitting 17 straight field goals from 2010-2011 and 25 of 29 in his career as a Rebel. Speedster Jeff Scott will handle the return duties and rightfully so after a 67 yard punt return for a touchdown against Southern Illinois last season.
2012 Schedule and Prediction-
September 1st vs. Central Arkansas- Win, Central Arkansas shouldn’t be too much of a test for the Rebels, but then again, Jacksonville State wasn’t supposed to be two years ago either.
September 8th vs. UTEP- Win, This one could go either way, but I’m giving the edge to the hometown Rebels.
September 15th vs. Texas- Loss, This is the biggest out of conference matchup for Ole Miss in recent memory and while the atmosphere might keep it close early, the talented Longhorns should pull away in the second half.
September 22nd @ Tulane- Win, The Rebels should come home from the Big Easy with a W.
September 29th @ Alabama- Loss, The Crimson Tide ran all over the Rebels last season with 3 running backs rushing for over 100 yards and a third reaching 70. This year should be no different.
October 6th vs. Texas A&M- Loss, The Rebels would like to welcome Texas A&M to the SEC with a loss, but they won’t likely have the talent for that this season.
October 13th vs. Auburn- Loss, This could be a pivotal game for any bowl hopes the Rebels may have and it’s a possibility for a win, but not likely.
October 27th @ Arkansas- Loss, Played them close at home last year, but just don’t have the talent to keep up.
November 3rd @ Georgia- Loss, The Bulldogs will be favorites to win the SEC East and it’s unfortunate the Rebels play them instead of Kentucky.
November 10th vs. Vanderbilt- Win, This may be a bit of a stretch, but they should be down a little from last year and the Rebels will be out to prove themselves.
November 17th @ LSU- Loss, Like the Alabama game, this game could get ugly on the road.
November 24th vs. Mississippi State- Loss, I hate to pick this for the second straight year. I believe Hugh Freeze will invest a lot into this rivalry and will find success against the Bulldogs in the future, but won’t have enough this year.
Final Record- 4-8 (1-7 SEC), 7th in SEC West, No Bowl
Best Case Scenario- 6-6 (Additional wins vs. Miss State, Texas A&M) (3-5 SEC), 6th in SEC West, Liberty Bowl
Worst Case Scenario- 2-10 (Additional losses vs. Vandy, UTEP), (0-8 SEC), 7th in SEC West