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Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Ole Miss spring wrap

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

2009 overall record: 9-4

2009 conference record: 4-4

Returning starters

Offense: 3; Defense: 6; Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

RB Brandon Bolden, WR Markeith Summers, WR Jesse Grandy, OT Bobby Massie, DE Kentrell Lockett, DT Jerrell Powe, LB Jonathan Cornell, S Johnny Brown

Key losses

QB Jevan Snead, RB Dexter McCluster, WR Shay Hodge, OG John Jerry, C Daverin Geralds, DE Marcus Tillman, LB Patrick Trahan, S Kendrick Lewis

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Dexter McCluster (1,169 yards)

Passing: Jevan Snead (2,632 yards)

Receiving: Shay Hodge (1,135 yards)

Tackles: Kendrick Lewis (84)

Sacks: Marcus Tillman and Emmanuel Stephens (5.5)

Interceptions: Kendrick Lewis, Cassius Vaughn, Patrick Trahan and Fon Ingram* (2)

Spring answers

1. Front seven dominance: The Rebels return six of their seven players in a front seven that should be as good and as experienced as any in the league. Senior end Kentrell Lockett and senior tackle Jerrell Powe are All-SEC caliber players, and if junior college newcomer Wayne Dorsey continues on the pace he set this spring at the other end, the Rebels again should rank right up there near the top nationally in tackles for loss. Senior linebackers Allen Walker and Jonathan Cornell are both underrated and have played a lot of quality football for the Rebels.

2. Sophomores to the rescue: The Rebels’ sophomore class looked poised this spring to really break out. Nathan Stanley takes over at quarterback. Receiver Patrick Patterson will be a key in the passing game, assuming he returns from suspension. Jesse Grandy is that big-play guy on offense and special teams that Ole Miss will need now that Dexter McCluster is gone, while Rodney Scott is Houston Nutt’s kind of running back. Offensive tackle Bobby Massie returns as the anchor up front, while linebacker D.T. Shackelford has star potential written all over him.

3. A Davis sighting: The Rebels don’t have anybody that can do what McCluster did for them at running back last season, but one of the more encouraging parts of spring practice was the way junior Enrique Davis ran the ball. He’s elusive, has breakaway speed and can make people miss. He’s been a disappointment so far after coming to Ole Miss with so much hype, but maybe the light has come on and it’s his time. Davis would be a nice complement to Brandon Bolden, who’s lost weight and also looks poised for a big season.

Fall questions

1. Stanley’s time to shine: Nathan Stanley came out of spring practice as the Rebels’ starter at quarterback. He threw the ball well, made good decisions and was effective in moving the team. Can he hold onto the job? A lot of that will depend on redshirt freshman Raymond Cotton’s shoulder issues. He also looked good at the end of the spring, but is battling a partially torn labrum and is trying to hold off from having surgery until after the 2010 season.

2. Protecting the passer: Nobody struggled more last season for the Rebels up front than left tackle Bradley Sowell. His nightmarish outing against South Carolina’s Eric Norwood just seemed to set an ominous tone. To his credit, he hung in there and did get better as the season progressed. His experience a year ago should prove valuable in 2010. The biggest question now for the Rebels in their offensive line is solidifying their inside positions.

3. Help in the secondary: The Rebels lost three of their four starters in the secondary, including both cornerbacks. Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix liked what he saw in the spring in some of the new faces, but it’s never ideal to go into a season with so much inexperience in the secondary. Redshirt freshman Charles Sawyer had a big spring at one cornerback, while UCLA transfer Jeremy McGee may be the answer at the other cornerback. Safety Johnny Brown is the lone returning starter, but junior college newcomer Damien Jackson may end up being the best of the bunch.