#9 Mississippi Football 2015 Preview

Ole Miss Rebels

Overall Rank: #9
#3 SEC

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The Ole Miss Rebels were on fire in their first seven games as they went 7-0 and ascended to as high as number three in the nation. Injuries to critical players like Laquon Treadwell at wide receiver and very inconsistent play at quarterback led the Rebels to a 2-4 finish in their final six games, including a blowout loss to TCU 42-3 in the Peach Bowl. The 2015 season is put up or shut up time for this star laden Ole Miss squad and they need to find a way to get to Atlanta to play in the SEC Championship game.

2014 Record: 9-4. 5-3
2014 Bowl: Peach Bowl vs. TCU L (3-42)
Coach: Hugh Freeze 24-15 at Ole Miss, 54-22 overall
Offensive Coordinator: Dan Werner, Matt Luke
Defensive Coordinator: Dave Wommack, Jason Jones

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jaylen Walton, RB, 568 yards
Passing: Devante Kincade, QB, 127 yards
Receiving: Evan Engram, TE, 662 yards
Tackles: Mike Hilton, SS, 71
Sacks: C.J. Johnson, LB, 4.0
Interceptions: Mike Hilton, SS, 3

Other Key Returnees: WR Damore’ea Stringfellow, LT Laremy Tunsil, DE Marquis Haynes, DT Robert Nkemdiche, DB Tony Conner, QB Ryan Buchanan, QB Chad Kelly

Key Losses: QB Bo Wallace, WR Vince Sanders, CB Senquez Golson

Defense will once again be the strength of the Rebels as they return enough talent to hold teams to around maybe 21-23 points per game instead of the 16 points per game they gave up a year ago. Robert Nkmediche and C.J. Johnson will set the tone up front at defensive tackle and linebacker, respectively. In the secondary, strong safety Mike Hilton is going to have to lead the way. There will be two new cornerbacks on the field in 2015 for head coach Hugh Freeze. Hilton had 71 tackles last season and picked off three passes and if he can bump the interception total over five that will be a big plus for the defense. Evan Engram is back at tight end and he will be a crucial safety valve for whoever wins the quarterback job this season. Engram had nearly 700 yards in receiving last season and was very reliable all season long for the Rebels.

Quarterback play is a big question mark with Bo Wallace having graduated. Chad Kelly, the transfer from Clemson, has some interesting potential but he has some off the field issues that raise some questions about him. Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincaid did play some a year ago but neither one really separated themselves. This competition will be a fascinating one to watch. The offensive line led by Laremy Tunsil at left tackle is going to have to do a better at protecting the quarterback as a –0.23 sacks per game differential between sacks allowed and team sacks can’t happen again in 2015.

The Bottom Line:
The trip to Tuscaloosa in week 3 to Alabama will be a huge litmus test for Ole Miss to see where they are at on the national landscape of college football. In what should be a pretty good defensive struggle, turnovers and penalties will be difference makers in that matchup with the Crimson Tide. A potential trap game on the schedule is October 17 when the Rebels make the short trip up to Memphis. The Tigers will be a contender in the American Athletic Conference and if the quarterback position is still unsettled for Ole Miss, this game could very easily go into the fourth quarter with Cincinnati having a chance to pull the upset. It is going to be critical for the Rebels to be rolling offensively by mid-October as the schedule ramps up after the Memphis game. Two road trips to Auburn and Mississippi State could also have huge implications for the Rebels if things go well. Auburn is expected to be a college football playoff contender. Thus, for Ole Miss it would be a great shot to get some revenge for 2014 and make a huge statement with the college football playoff selection committee. Bottom line, if coach Freeze can get a quarterback to step up and play consistent football, the Rebels will have a chance to win nine or ten games once again this season.

Projected Bowl: Fiesta Bowl

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 155.5 (73rd in nation, 9th in conference)
Passing Offense: 263.6 (37, 5)
Total Offense: 419.1 (51, 7)
Scoring Offense: 28.3 (67, 11)
Rushing Defense: 136.9 (29, 5)
Pass Defense: 192.1 (16, 1)
Total Defense: 329.0 (13, 4)
Scoring Defense: 16.0 (1, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.54 (27, 4)
Sacks: 2.15 (63, 8)
Sacks Allowed: 2.38 (85, 12)

Madness 2016 NFL Draft Rankings:
#3 Robert Nkemdiche
#6 Laremy Tunsil
#14 Laquon Treadwell
#36 Tony Connor

Madness 2015 Recruit Rankings:
#39 DaMarkus Lodge
#63 Javon Patterson
#128 Van Jefferson
#162 Eric Swinney


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