Spring lookahead: Ole Miss Rebels
Hugh Freeze continues to inspire. And why wouldn’t he? The Ole Miss Rebels had one of the best signing classes in the nation, locking up the overall No.1 high school player in the nation in Robert Nkemdiche, the No.1 offensive tackle, Laremy Tunsil, and others. The ever-inspirational Freeze has the Rebels believing that they can compete against the best of the SEC West and win more than they lose: a tall order for a division that has produced the last four BCS national champions.
2012 Record: 7-6 (3-5 SEC)
Spring Schedule: The BancorpSouth Grove Bowl will kick off April 13 at 1:00 p.m. As usual, no matter how spring practice goes, the Rebels will win the party. Friday night before the game, there will be a free concert in The Grove featuring Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, a heck of a way to kick off a hotty toddy good time.
Last Year: With Freeze ramping up the intensity of the sideline, Rebel quarterback Bo Wallace showed spurts of brilliance throughout the year. Despite tossing 17 interceptions, Wallace threw for 2,994 yards, 22 touchdowns and led Ole Miss to impressive wins over Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State and Pittsburgh. And he was one or two plays away from beating Vanderbilt and upsetting LSU.
Ask any player or coach at Alabama, Georgia or Texas A&M which 2012 win was their toughest and most will say Ole Miss. That bodes well for the future of football in Oxford.
The Biggest Hole to Fill: is on the coaching staff. Wesley McGriff was a rising star as co-defensive coordinator. His secondary improved steadily throughout the season and with recruits like Nkmediche and five-star safety Tony Conner on their way to Oxford, McGriff’s jump to the New Orleans Saints will be a blow. Upon hearing the news Nkemdiche tweeted, “heartbroken my coach left Ole Miss.” Freeze will need to fill that spot quickly, but do so with a quality recruiter and motivator.
One to Watch: Wallace is out for the spring after surgery on his shoulder, which opens the door for backup quarterback Barry Brunetti who threw for 196 yards and one touchdown in limited service in 2012, but also rushed for 277 yards and three TDs. Brunetti is a good runner, but to call him an erratic passer would be kind. He is, as Coach Freeze called him, “inaccurate” with his throws.
If he doesn’t improve, expect to see a lot of Maikhail Miller this spring. But Ole Miss is anything but thin at quarterback. Freeze locked up two quality recruits in Ryan Buchannan and Devante Kincade. They won’t be on the field this spring, but they could make the competition at quarterback very interesting by the first of August.