#40 Ole Miss Football 2017 Preview

Ole Miss Rebels
Overall Rank: #40
#9 SEC
Ole Miss entered the 2016 campaign with high expectations. Those expectations never materialized and the Rebels run of four straight bowl appearances game to an end. The run of bowl misses will continue in 2017 with a one-year bowl ban in effect. The off-field distractions are plentiful, including the resignation of coach Hugh Freeze, but on the field Ole Miss has some potential and an offense that should be fun to watch.
2016 Record: 5-7, 2-6
2016 Bowl: None
Coach: Matt Luke (0-0 at Ole Miss, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Phil Longo
Defensive Coordinator: Wesley McGriff
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Eugene Brazley, RB, 261 yards
Passing: Shea Patterson, QB, 880 yards
Receiving: Van Jefferson, WR, 543 yards
Tackles: DeMarquis Gates, LB, 79
Sacks: Marquis Haynes, DE, 7.0
Interceptions: Zedrick Woods, S, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR A.J. Brown, S Myles Hartsfield, LB A.J. Moore, K Gary Wunderlich
Key Losses: QB Chad Kelly, RB Akeem Judd, TE Evan Engram, WR Damore’ea Stringfellow, WR Quincy Adeboyejo, LB Tony Conner, LB Rommel Mageo
Ole Miss pulled the redshirt off highly touted quarterback Shea Patterson. In three years that may be regrettable, but for now it gives Patterson some experience before heading into his first season as the full-time starter. Patterson started the last three games of the season following an injury to Chad Kelly and managed to beat Texas A&M in his debut before losing to Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. New offensive coordinator Phil Longo is an Air Raid coach and now Patterson will get to throw the ball all over the place. And he has good receiving options too. A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf did not light the world afire as freshmen, but both are big, tough receivers with a ton of potential. Van Jefferson was more productive during his freshman campaign, catching 49 passes for 543 yards and three touchdowns. Another sophomore, Octavius Cooley figures to step into the tight spot to replace Evan Engram and his team high 65 receptions for 926 yards and eight scores. In the new offense, the running back is not ignored. Akeem Judd is gone, but the hopes are high for Jordan Wilkins, who missed last season with an injury and rushed for 379 yards in 2015.
There is a new defensive coordinator too. And after ranking dead last in the SEC in rushing defense and scoring defense, the hope is the new look will bring new results. The line is in decent shape, led by end Marquis Haynes. He recorded 7.0 sacks and is third on the school’s career sack list. Tackle Breeland Speaks had a disappointing sophomore season, but he has the potential to cause havoc in the middle of the line. The linebackers also boast a player in DeMarquis Gates who underperformed in 2016. He still led the team with 79 tackles and recorded 4.0 sacks though. He will have to be a leader of the linebackers with little other experience returning. Myles Hartsfield leads a young, but talented secondary. Hartsfield moved from safety to cornerback in the spring and fellow sophomores Jalen Julius, Jaylon Jones and Deontay Anderson could be starting in the secondary as well. Safety Zedrick Woods is the experienced junior of the unit and tallied 63 tackles and a team high three interceptions in 2016.
The Bottom Line:
The defense has plenty of potential, especially if the pass rush improves and the talented, albeit young, secondary has the opportunity to make big plays. The turnover margin was a big problem last season and that can quickly change with an improved pass rush. There may be nothing to play for in terms of a bowl, but Ole Miss will relish the chance to ruin other team’s seasons. And they have the talent to do it.
Projected Bowl: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 149.4 (95th in nation, 12th in conference)
Passing Offense: 314.9 (13, 1)
Total Offense: 464.3 (26, 3)
Scoring Offense: 32.6 (42, 4)
Rushing Defense: 246.3 (120, 14)
Pass Defense: 214.9 (48, 7)
Total Defense: 461.3 (111, 13)
Scoring Defense: 24.0 (100, 14)
Turnover Margin: -0.25 (85, 11)
Sacks: 1.67 (96, 11)
Sacks Allowed: 2.17 (73, 11)
Madness 2018 NFL Draft Rankings:
#25 Marquis Haynes
Madness 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#81 D.D. Bowie