With a lot of questions on both sides of the ball, the Rebels are being heavily overlooked in the SEC West, but they're hoping their young talent surprises this fall:
Biggest reason for hope: Veteran offensive line and strong running game.
The player who wins the Ole Miss quarterback battle will have a solid offensive line protecting him. And that sure is a good thing, considering West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti is the only one of the three quarterbacks competing for the job with any Football Bowl Subdivision game experience. The Rebels will field a line consisting of All-SEC candidates in tackles Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie, and return seven players that started two or more games each on the offensive line last year. The running game should also take some pressure off the quarterback. The Rebels' runners are led by senior Brandon Bolden, who rushed for 976 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2010. He'll be backed up by home run-hitting threat Jeff Scott and the improved Enrique Davis, who combined to rush for more than 700 yards on the ground last season.
Biggest reason for concern: Uncertainty at cornerback and at receiver.
Ole Miss' pass defensive ranked 103rd nationally in 2010. The Rebels surrendered 246.3 passing yards per game and 24 touchdowns through the air. The Rebels entered the spring with only three cornerbacks having any experience, and senior Marcus Temple missed all of spring after hernia surgery. Strides were made by junior college transfer Wesley Pendleton and sophomore Charles Sawyer, who started four games in 2010. Underclassmen Cliff Coleman and Frank Crawford also impressed, but are unproven. The same can be said for the Rebels' receiving corps. Offensive coordinator David Lee said inconsistency was about the only thing his receivers were consistent at for most of spring, but saw some reasons for optimism during the latter days of practice and the spring game. Redshirt freshman Vincent Sanders will be heavily relied upon this fall to take some focus away from junior Melvin Harris on offense. Harris has the most experience after playing in 11 games last season.