#59 Ole Miss 2018 Football Preview

Ole Miss Rebels
Overall Rank: #59
#10 SEC
 Ole Miss Logo
Ole Miss was hit with more sanctions that will leave them not eligible for a bowl again in 2018. The Rebels did find a coach though in Matt Luke. In a temporary role last season, Coach Luke led his team to three wins in their last four games. That was a good way for this program to attempt to move on from the off field turmoil that hovered over the program in 2017. The effects will be felt on the field for years to come with scholarship and recruiting limitations, but for now Mississippi can put out a competitive team.
2017 Record: 6-6, 3-5
2017 Bowl: None
Coach: Matt Luke (6-6 at Ole Miss, 6-6 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Phil Longo
Defensive Coordinator: Wesley McGriff
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: D’Vaughn Pennamon, RB, 217 yards
Passing: Jordan Ta’amu, QB, 1,682 yards
Receiving: A.J. Brown, WR, 1,252 yards
Tackles: Josiah Coatney, DT, 65
Sacks: Josiah Coatney, DT, 3.5
Interceptions: C.J. Moore, S, 3; Javien Hamilton, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR DaMarkus Lodge, WR D.K. Metcalf, OL Greg Little, S Zedrick Woods
Key Losses: RB Jordan Wilkins, QB Shea Patterson, LB DeMarquis Gates, DE Breeland Speaks, DE Marquis Haynes, DB A.J. Moore
Jordan Ta’amu earned some valuable experience last season when he stepped in for injured starter Shea Patterson. This is now Ta’amu’s team and there are good reasons to expect him to be successful. Last year he completed 66.5 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The other reason Ta’amu will have a good season is because of all the talent at wide receiver. A.J. Brown caught 75 passes for a program record 1,252 yards. DaMarkus Lodge and DK Metcalf were both extremely productive last season as well. Throw in tight end Dawson Knox and few teams in the country can match this receiver corps. There are big questions at running back though with the loss of 1,000 yard rusher Jordan Wilkins. D’Vaughn Pennamon and Eric Swinney are the most experienced options, but neither was particularly productive last season.
The defense must improve if Mississippi is going to win a few SEC games. They allowed 245.3 yards per game on the ground and that number gets even worse against SEC opposition. The front six of the 4-2-5 scheme returns just two starters, but tackles Benito Jones and Josiah Coatney are a great place to start. Those two will need to pave the way for a unit that needs to be tougher. Ends Victor Evans, Qaadir Sheppard and Ryder Anderson should be able to provide a decent pass rush. At linebacker, Detric Bing-Dukes is the most experienced option, but he only recorded 24 tackles in limited playing time a season ago. Younger players like Josh Clarke will need to be ready to contribute. The secondary returns strong safety Zedrick Woods and cornerbacks Myles Hartsfield and Ken Webster so there is some experience to build around.
The Bottom Line:
Mississippi will hope that the bowl ban decision gets overturned, but we will not find out for sure until right before the season starts. Most likely though, the program will have very little to actually play for this season. The passing game will be extremely dangerous, but it remains to be seen if the team can do enough damage on the ground to open up passing lanes. More importantly, it will be the defense that needs to improve if Mississippi is going to reach the six win mark.
Projected Bowl: None
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 133.9 (103rd in nation, 11th in conference)
Passing Offense: 328.4 (11, 1)
Total Offense: 462.3 (18, 2)
Scoring Offense: 32.8 (33, 5)
Rushing Defense: 245.3 (123, 13)
Pass Defense: 214.2 (52, 9)
Total Defense: 459.5 (115, 14)
Scoring Defense: 34.6 (109, 13)
Turnover Margin: -0.42 (97, 12)
Sacks: 2.42 (37, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 2.67 (104, 11)

Madness 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#59 Matt Corral
#237 Elijah Moore