Oct 15, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Ole Miss Rebels defensive back A.J. Moore (30) linebacker DeMarquis Gates (3) and defensive tackle Breeland Speaks (9) celebrate after a sack by Gates in the first quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
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The 2016 Ole Miss football team was considered weak at the linebacker position. However, if recruiting ends well, that group could eventually be a position of strength.
The defensive effort from the 2016 Ole Miss Rebels football team was lacking. However, there was a noticeable weakness at the linebacker level. Team tackling was abysmal. Even when the effort was there, the execution was off point.
Therefore, the fans are looking for any positive information to boost their spirits for the upcoming seasons. Well there is a chance that the very thing they were concerned about in 2016 could become an area of strength in future seasons.
The Rebels have been recruiting the linebacker position heavily this offseason. They won’t hit on each recruit. However, if they could sign five or six quality recruits, in a season or two the Rebels could possess the kind of linebackers they love having in Oxford. Then we could possibly see the rebirth of the Landshark defense.
Oct 3, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Mississippi Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze . Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Linebacker: Solid Commits
Ole Miss already has three solid recruits committed to the Rebels. Josh Clarke from Riverdale, HS in Kenner, LA. has been faithfully committed to the Rebels since June. He has publicly recruited for others to join him in Oxford.
The 6’1 210lb linebacker has the tenacity and the fire the Rebel fans love to see. He has already developed a great relationship with the fan base. Look for him to have great success on the field.
Brenden Williams joins the team via the JUCO route. The 6’4 200lb signee from Northeast Community College brings a resume of tackling. He finished his season with 91 tackles with 11.5 tackles for loss. Tackling was a huge issue for Ole Miss last year.
However, Breon Dixon may be the biggest steal of the signing class. The four-star linebacker from Loganville, GA. has hit the ground running as a recruiting signee. Dixon is a defensive play maker. He seems to always be around the ball making big plays. He was named an Under Armour All-American and the 6’0 216lbs linebacker could be a big asset early.
Oct 15, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Ole Miss Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly (10) celebrates with wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo (8) and offensive lineman (74) after rushing for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Linebacker: Wish List
It would be great if the Rebels could sign at least two or three more linebackers in this class. They have their sights set on a few prospects. However, there is no bigger prospect out there that the Rebels would love to sign than Willie Gay, who was a one time Ole Miss verbal commit but has since de-committed. Ole Miss remains in his final list for potential schools. This four star linebacker from Starkville, MS. would be coup. Plus it will immediately create depth at the linebacker position. Gay has star potential.
Both Mohamed Sanogo and Thomas Johnston will be in Oxford for an official visit on 1/20. Sanogo is a four star recruit from Plano, TX who has become highly sought after since de-committing from Houston. The Rebels are hoping to keep his interest high this weekend. Johnston comes from Spanish Fort, AL. Ole Miss is making inroads with him. This could be a big visit.
Another interesting linebacker prospect for the Rebels is Jeffery Burley, who committed to Wake Forest in July. However, once he received an offer from Ole Miss in October, he has slowly been moving toward the Rebels. The feeling is that he will end up a Rebel. His presence would add much needed depth and would be a good “get” for the Rebels.
Oct 15, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Ole Miss Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze during the first quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Linebacker: Looking Ahead to 2017
Ole Miss struggled last year at the linebacker position. However, there is still talent from that team. The Rebels’ leading tackler will return next year. DeMarquis Gates will be back to lead these young linebackers.
Detric Bing-Dukes, Tayler Polk, and Ray Ray Smith will all return. Plus we will get to see Donta Evans, whom the Rebel coaches are impressed with. A year’s worth of experience will at the very least add to the depth.
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If Ole Miss can bring in a class of five or six quality linebackers to go with these guys that are all ready on the team, the Rebels could grow to have a quality linebacker corp. In a season or two, this position group could turn out to be strong.
We could see the immergence of great young linebackers. Therefore, we just may see the return of that Landshark defense.