Today, we take a look at what should be the strongest and weakest positions for Ole Miss entering the 2010 season:
Strongest position: Defensive line
Key returnees: Kentrell Lockett, Jerrell Powe, Ted Laurent, Lawon Scott, LaMark Armour, Justin Smith
Key departures: Marcus Tillman, Greg Hardy, Emmanuel Stephens
The skinny: If junior college newcomer Wayne Dorsey is as good as the Rebels think he is, then they have a chance to be even better than they were last season in the defensive line. The 6-6, 255-pound Dorsey will step in at the end opposite Lockett and has all the tools to be a dominant pass-rusher. There’s not much proven depth behind him at end, but Ole Miss will again be one of the deepest teams in the country at tackle. Powe returns as one of best interior linemen in the league. Lockett and Powe combined for 22 tackles for loss last season, including eight sacks. The good news for the Rebels is that they have enough quality interior defensive linemen that they should always have a fresh guy in the game. You win with muscle up front in the SEC, and the Rebels have plenty of it.
Weakest position: Quarterback
Key departures: Jevan Snead
The skinny: The silver lining to Snead’s disappointing season last year was that he would at least have his senior season to put everything together. He was brilliant as a sophomore, but threw an SEC-high 20 interceptions last season as a junior. But after the season, he surprised most people by announcing he was turning pro, which leaves sophomore Nathan Stanley and redshirt freshman Raymond Cotton to duke it out for the starting job this spring. Neither has any meaningful experience, and Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said this week that getting them ready to play in the SEC next season would be the biggest challenge of their coaching careers. Stanley has at least played some in a mop-up role and probably has the advantage, but Nutt said it would be an open competition. When junior college transfer Randall Mackey arrives this May, he will also get a shot. Mackey is more of an athlete and should fit nicely into the Wild Rebel package.