SEC: Jerrell Powe

We kick off our countdown today of the SEC's 25 best players entering the 2011 season.

Like past top 25 lists, this isn't a list of the top NFL prospects in the league. It's based on what players have accomplished in college so far, their potential for the 2011 season and the impact they have on their teams.

What separates this from the postseason list is that it relies more on projections, as opposed to mainly statistics, like the postseason poll.

We have reached out to members of the SEC, including coaches and players, for input on our list and have spoken with different members of the media for help as well.

Of course, there will be some players who burst onto the scene this fall and make their way onto the list. Remember some guy named Cam Newton? I think he surprised just about everyone last year.

And there will be some players who fall off this list. Last season, Ole Miss defensive tackle Jerrell Powe ranked No. 10 on the preseason list, but he recorded just 27 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

OK, we've stalled long enough. Here is No. 25 and we’ll count it down daily until we get to No. 1:

No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee

[+] EnlargeJanzen Jackson
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireJanzen Jackson (15) is a playmaker in Tennessee's secondary, collecting 69 tackles and five picks last season.
2010 numbers: Jackson was one of 10 Volunteers to start every game in 2010 and owns the highest streak of consecutive starts heading into 2011 with 15. His five interceptions tied for the team lead and tied for third in the SEC. He was also the Vols’ leader in interception return yards with 114, ranking third in the league. Jackson led the team with 11 passes defended and led Tennessee’s secondary with 69 tackles.

Most recent ranking:
Not ranked in the 2011 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Jackson: When Jackson is on, he’s really good -- even great. His tremendous field instincts are undeniable, he’s a big hitter and he his cover skills that make you think he’s a cornerback at times. Jackson has the ability to cover almost every portion of the field. His mere presence makes the Vols’ defense go. Jackson ranked fifth on our safeties list, but that was before he reported back to school. Now that he's back we expect him to make an impact on the Vols' defense. However, we wonder what kind of playing shape he’ll be in once he finally steps back onto the football field. Jackson only recently rejoined the team after withdrawing from school following the Music City Bowl. He hasn’t practiced with the team since before the bowl, so he’ll no doubt be rusty this preseason. Even though he worked out on his own, it could take him some time to regain his football legs. Jackson has also been hampered by off-the-field incidents through his first two years, which makes him a bit of a wild card in Knoxville. Jackson has the skill to be a terrific player in this league, but he has to overcome the mental side of things first.
Now that the NFL draft is over, I thought it'd be fun to take a look at how last year's first-round predictions turned out.

Shortly after the 2010 NFL draft, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay predicted the SEC would have eight selections in the first round in his first 2011 mock draft Insider. He ended up being pretty close as the SEC had 10 players go in the first round.

He also had Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck going first, which probably would have been the case if he had decided to enter the draft. Instead, he opted to stay in school and Auburn's Cam Newton was taken by the Carolina Panthers with the first pick.

McShay was close with his Marcell Dareus pick. He wrote that the Alabama defensive tackle would go second to the St. Louis Rams, but Dareus went third to the Buffalo Bills.

He also had Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallet going 15th to the San Francisco 49ers and Ole Miss defensive tackle Jerrell Powe landing with the Denver Broncos at No. 13. Mallett was taken by the New England Patriots in the third round, while Powe was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in sixth.

Making these predictions isn't easy, so it's pretty impressive that he was able to predict six of his eight players to go in the first round.

Here's what McShay predicted in 2010:
  • No. 2, St. Louis Rams: Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus
  • No. 7, New England Patriots: Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green
  • No. 13, Denver Broncos: Ole Miss defensive tackle Jerrell Powe
  • No. 15, San Francisco 49ers: Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett
  • No. 19, New York Giants: Alabama running back Mark Ingram
  • No. 24, Cincinnati Bengals: Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones
  • No. 27, Baltimore Ravens: LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson
  • No. 31, Indianapolis Colts: Florida offensive guard/center Mike Pouncey

And here's how the first round turned out:
  • No. 1, Carolina Panthers: Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
  • No. 3, Buffalo Bills: Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus
  • No. 4, Cincinnati Bengals: Georgia receiver A.J. Green
  • No. 5, Arizona Cardinals: LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson
  • No. 6, Atlanta Falcons: Alabama receiver Julio Jones
  • No. 13, Detroit Lions: Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley
  • No. 15, Miami Dolphins: Florida offensive guard/center Mike Pouncey
  • No. 25, Seattle Seahawks: Alabama offensive guard James Carpenter
  • No. 28, New Orleans Saints: Alabama running back Mark Ingram
  • No. 32, Green Bay Packers: Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod

Opening spring camp: Ole Miss

March, 28, 2011
3/28/11
2:53
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Schedule: The Rebels open practice on Monday afternoon and will hold their annual Grove Bowl spring game on April 16 at 2 p.m. ET. The Rebels’ practices are open to the public.

What’s new: David Lee, previously the quarterbacks coach with the Miami Dolphins, reunites with Houston Nutt and will serve as Ole Miss’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and will also call plays. He takes over for Dave Rader, who was not retained. Nutt had always called plays in the past. He and Lee spent two different stints together at Arkansas. Gunter Brewer comes over from Oklahoma State and will be the Rebels’ receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Brewer takes over for Ron Dickerson Jr., who was named the head coach at Gardner-Webb. Keith Burns will coach the Ole Miss secondary next season. He was previously the secondary coach at Kansas State and has also been a defensive coordinator at several schools, including Southern California and Arkansas.

On the mend: Cornerback Marcus Temple will miss the spring while recovering from a sports hernia. Defensive end Kentrell Lockett, who’s waiting to see if he gets a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, is still recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL and won’t go through the spring.

Key battle: The Rebels hope to come out of the spring with their starting quarterback and have several to choose from. Junior Nathan Stanley won the job last year until Jeremiah Masoli came along. This time, Stanley has to hold off junior college signee Zack Stoudt as well as West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti, who’s hoping to get a waiver from the NCAA and be eligible to play right away and not have to sit out a season. Junior Randall Mackey redshirted last season after coming to Ole Miss as one of the top-rated junior college quarterbacks in the country. Mackey is the most dynamic runner of the bunch, while Lee is probably mentally ahead of everyone at this point.

New faces: Five junior college players were added to the roster in January and will go through spring practice. In addition to Stoudt at quarterback, Philander Moore will factor in at both receiver and as a return specialist, Gilbert Pena at defensive tackle and Wes Pendleton and Ivan Nicholas in the defensive secondary. Pendleton’s speed should make him a strong candidate to help out at cornerback.

Breaking out: Finding more playmakers at receiver will be a priority this spring, which places the spotlight on guys like junior Melvin Harris, sophomore Ja-Mes Logan and redshirt freshman Vincent Sanders.

Don’t forget about: The Rebels were the SEC’s third best rushing team a year ago, and returning for his senior season is running back Brandon Bolden. One of the league’s most underrated players, Bolden rushed for 976 yards last season, scored 17 touchdowns and led the Rebels in receptions (32) and all-purpose yards (1,320).

All eyes on: Gone are four senior defensive tackles, including Jerrell Powe, which means the Rebels will be on the lookout this spring for anybody who can help them in the middle of that defensive line. Senior Justin Smith and sophomore Corey Gaines are the only returnees with any experience. Redshirt freshmen Bryon Bennett and Carlton Martin will get every chance to show what they can do, and the Rebels are also counting on Pena to make an immediate impact.

SEC lunch links

February, 28, 2011
2/28/11
1:49
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Good Monday to everybody. A few links to munch on:

SEC recruiting needs: Western Division

January, 28, 2011
1/28/11
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For many, National Signing Day in college football is more anticipated than the season itself.

It’s just around the corner, Wednesday to be exact.

We’ll start with the Western Division in the SEC and take a look at each team’s recruiting needs:

ALABAMA

[+] EnlargeJulio Jones
AP Photo/John RaouxAlabama is losing star receiver Julio Jones to the NFL.
Offensive line: Alabama has been swimming in All-America and All-SEC offensive linemen the past three years, but it’s time to replenish up front. With James Carpenter departing, the Crimson Tide need to find a left tackle. Junior college signee Aaron Douglas, who started his career at Tennessee and was a Freshman All-American two years ago, could be the answer.

Receiver: Talents like Julio Jones don’t come around very often, and he’s now headed to the NFL a year early on the heels of a record-setting junior season. Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks will both be seniors next season, so finding a few more playmakers on the perimeter is a priority.

Defensive end: Whether it’s defensive ends or outside linebackers, the Crimson Tide are looking for some finishers in their 3-4 scheme to help improve their pass rush. Defensive end Marcell Dareus declared early for the NFL draft. The Tide’s other starting end, Luther Davis, is also gone, while “Jack” linebacker Courtney Upshaw will be a senior next season. Alabama finished in the middle of the SEC pack this season with 27 sacks.

ARKANSAS

Receiver: There won’t be a more talented receiving corps in the SEC next season. However, Greg Childs, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright will all be seniors. Cobi Hamilton will be a junior, so it’s imperative that the Hogs add some youth to their talented receiving stable.

Tight end: D.J. Williams ended his Arkansas career as one of the best pass-catching tight ends in SEC history. Also gone is Ben Cleveland. Rising junior Chris Gragg had his moments this season, but he’s going to need some help down the road.

Defensive back: The Hogs are losing half of their starting secondary in cornerback Ramon Broadway and strong safety Rudell Crim. Free safety Tramain Thomas and cornerback Isaac Madison return, but both will be seniors next season. Cornerbacks will be at the top of the Hogs’ wish list.

Offensive line: Tackles DeMarcus Love and Ray Dominguez were both seniors along with left guard Wade Grayson. Several of the Hogs’ backups on the offensive line will be seniors next season.

AUBURN

Offensive line: The Tigers lose four senior starters on their offensive line. Left tackle Lee Ziemba, right guard Byron Isom and center Ryan Pugh all earned some type of All-SEC honors. Getting tackle A.J. Greene back will help. He was a starter at right tackle until he injured his knee in the third game. The Tigers’ top offensive line signee from last year, Shon Coleman, remains on hold. He’s battling Leukemia.

Defensive line: Most of the guys who played the meaningful snaps up front defensively for the Tigers this season are gone. The big loss was Lombardi Award winner Nick Fairley declaring early for the NFL draft. Rising sophomore end Nosa Eguae will be looking for all the help he can get, even though there are some promising young defensive linemen in the program.

Quarterback: It was only one season, but what a season it was for Cam Newton. The 2010 Heisman Trophy winner will now take his shot at the NFL, leaving Auburn thin in the quarterback ranks. Rising junior Barrett Trotter is probably the guy to beat next season. The Tigers needed a multi-dimensional quarterback in this class and think they scored a perfect fit for Gus Malzahn’s offense in Kiehl Frazier of Springdale, Ark. He’s rated by ESPN as the No. 2 quarterback prospect in the country.

Linebacker: The Tigers have been lacking for depth at linebacker the past two seasons, which is the reason Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens played so many snaps. They’re gone now, and Eltoro Freeman will be a senior next season. Auburn went looking for linebackers last recruiting period and is looking for a few more this year.

LSU

Defensive line: With defensive tackle Drake Nevis graduating, muscle inside is a priority. The same goes for adding some top-flight pass-rushers at end. The return of Sam Montgomery will be a huge plus for the Tigers, who didn’t get to the quarterback nearly as much once he got hurt this season. They’re looking for a few more pass-rushers just like him.

Receiver: Terrence Toliver is gone, and suddenly, Russell Shepard and Rueben Randle will be juniors next season. The Tigers need more firepower on the outside, in particular a deep threat at receiver. They’re hopeful that four-star commitment Jarvis Landry of Lutcher, La., can come in and help provide more big plays next season.

Quarterback: It was a struggle in the passing game all season for LSU, which finished with just 10 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. Jordan Jefferson did play better toward the end of the season, but he and Jarrett Lee are both rising seniors. It was critical that the Tigers get a marquee quarterback in this class, and they were able to get one at midterm. Former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger is already enrolled and will go through spring practice. The 6-5, 230-pound Mettenberger threw 32 touchdown passes last season at Butler (Kan.) Community College.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Linebacker: The Bulldogs are losing all three starters, and Chris White and K.J. Wright were their top two tacklers this season. Ferlando Bohanna is one of the 22 freshmen they redshirted last season and will get every chance to win a starting linebacker job in the spring.

Defensive line: In particular, Mississippi State is looking for ends and guys that can get to the quarterback. Pernell McPhee is gone, and Johnathan McKenzie left the team in September. The Bulldogs’ depth up front was also hurt by the tragic death of Nick Bell, who passed away in November after a bout with cancer.

Receivers: Dan Mullen is always looking for more receivers, even though the Bulldogs redshirted four of those guys last season. With the kind of offense Mullen wants to run, it’s important that Mississippi State bring in more guys on the perimeter who can stretch the field.

OLE MISS

Defensive line: The Rebels lost four senior tackles, both starters and both backups, and one of those was Jerrell Powe, one of the best run-stoppers in the league. Kentrell Lockett has applied to the NCAA for a sixth season. Regardless of whether or not he gets another season, the Rebels need more pass-rushers. Wayne Dorsey, a touted junior college transfer, struggled last season.

Receiver: An overall lack of production at receiver really hurt Ole Miss this season, and the Rebels’ two most dependable wide receivers, Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux, are both gone. They need to find some more playmakers at the receiver position.

Defensive back: The Rebels lost two of the three in their safety rotation, and the one coming back, Damien Jackson, will be a senior. They’re also in need of cornerbacks, and just generally need to beef up a secondary that took its lumps this season. Ole Miss gave up 24 touchdown passes and intercepted only six passes.

Quarterback: Jeremiah Masoli’s year is up, leaving Nathan Stanley and redshirt freshman Randall Mackey, who’s more of a runner. Junior college signee Zack Stoudt is already on campus and will participate in spring practice.

SEC lunch links

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
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Making the rounds in the SEC on a Tuesday:

SEC lunch links

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
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Some SEC linkage for your viewing pleasure:

SEC lunch links

October, 7, 2010
10/07/10
12:10
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Checking on what all's out there in the SEC:

Ole Miss selects team captains

August, 30, 2010
8/30/10
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Ole Miss announced its team captains Sunday night, and it's obvious that the bulk of leadership on this team is on the defensive side.

Four of the five captains, selected by their teammates, are defensive players -- safety Johnny Brown, linebacker Jonathan Cornell, end Kentrell Lockett and nose tackle Jerrell Powe. Receiver Lionel Breaux was the lone offensive player selected.
"They’re the heart and soul of the team, they’re our backbone,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. "They’ve led our team since January. They led in every way, as far as the weight room, classroom, locker room and then on the field."

Lombardi list laden with SEC players

August, 27, 2010
8/27/10
3:01
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The watch list for the 2010 Rotary Lombardi Award is a pretty good indication that the SEC will be strong in the trenches this season.

The SEC placed 15 players on the list, including three from Alabama -- offensive tackle James Carpenter, defensive end Marcell Dareus and linebacker Dont'a Hightower.

The Rotary Lombardi Award goes to "down linemen, end-to-end, either on offense or defense, who set up no farther than 10 yards to the left or right of the ball, or linebackers who set up no farther than 5 yards deep from the line of scrimmage."

Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was the 2009 winner.

Here's a look at the 15 SEC players who made the 2010 preseason watch list:
The three most glaring guys missing from this list, in my opinion, are Vanderbilt linebacker Chris Marve, Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker and Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett.
Ole Miss’ defense was so dominant Wednesday during practice that coach Houston Nutt said the offense couldn’t get a first down during the team work.

For Nutt, that’s a double-edged sword.

“I hope it’s the defense was that good. That’s what I’m hoping,” said Nutt, acknowledging that the offense has to get better.

Senior nose tackle Jerrell Powe can probably help his coach out with that quandary. Since before preseason practice began, Powe has been saying this defense has a chance to be special.

Based on what’s transpired this preseason, in particular the way junior college newcomer Wayne Dorsey has pushed to become a more complete player at end, this is shaping up to be perhaps the strongest Ole Miss defense yet under Nutt and defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix.

There are still a lot of new faces who will need to come through in the secondary, but Powe likes the makeup of this defense.

“I definitely think we can carry this team,” Powe said. “We’re going to be real special, and I’ve heard a lot of people comparing us to the 1993 group. It’s going to be on us to hold it down until the offense gets it going, and they will.”

That 1993 Ole Miss defense was plenty nasty, even though the Rebels finished just 6-5 that season. They allowed 142 points in 11 games (12.9 points per game) and didn’t give up more than 21 points in a game all season.

The SEC's top NFL-ready players

August, 11, 2010
8/11/10
2:34
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Mel Kiper, ESPN's NFL draft analyst, has rated the top NFL draft prospects at each FBS school.

Here's his breakdown of the SEC:

Alabama: Defensive end Marcell Dareus

Arkansas: Quarterback Ryan Mallett

Auburn: Cornerback Neiko Thorpe

Florida: Center Mike Pouncey

Georgia: Receiver A.J. Green

Kentucky: Receiver Randall Cobb

LSU: Cornerback Patrick Peterson

Mississippi State: Defensive end Pernell McPhee

Ole Miss: Nose tackle Jerrell Powe

South Carolina: Tight end Weslye Saunders

Tennessee: Tight end Luke Stocker

Vanderbilt: Linebacker Chris Marve

The only place where I might disagree with Kiper would be at South Carolina.

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore is the Gamecocks' best player -- period -- right now and will be a terrific pro. He's only a sophomore, though. Defensive end Cliff Matthews and receiver Alshon Jeffery are also future pros.

Bednarik watch list has SEC flavor

August, 10, 2010
8/10/10
12:05
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Seven different SEC teams have players on the preseason watch list for the 2010 Chuck Bednarik Award, which has been presented to the nation's top defensive player since 1995.

Alabama, Miami and North Carolina all had three players each on the 60-man list to lead the nation. Making it for the Crimson Tide were defensive end Marcell Dareus, linebacker Dont'a Hightower and safety Mark Barron.

The other SEC players making the cut were cornerback Patrick Peterson and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard of LSU, cornerback Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina, safety Ahmad Black of Florida, outside linebacker Justin Houston of Georgia, defensive end Pernell McPhee of Mississippi State, nose tackle Jerrell Powe of Ole Miss and linebacker Josh Bynes of Auburn.

Here's my list of the other SEC defenders who should have been nominated, but weren't: Vanderbilt linebacker Chris Marve, South Carolina defensive end Cliff Matthews, Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins, Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett and Kentucky defensive end DeQuin Evans.

Here's a link to the entire Bednarik watch list.

Opening camp: Ole Miss

August, 8, 2010
8/08/10
9:00
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Schedule: Practice starts Sunday at 5:25 p.m. ET. The first day in full pads is Thursday (Aug. 12).

What’s new: With Kent Austin leaving for the Cornell head coaching job, Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt brought in Dave Rader to be his co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. It’s still Nutt’s offense, so don’t look for the Rebels to change much on that side of the ball.

Sidelined: Defensive back Tig Barksdale has been dismissed from the team after being suspended for the spring. The Rebels are still waiting to hear on whether five signees made it academically -- receivers Vincent Sanders and Quadarias Mireles, defensive linemen Bryon Bennett and Delvin Jones and cornerback Tony Grimes.

Key battle: The Rebels feel pretty good about senior Markeith Summers as their starting split end, but they still need to settle on their other featured receivers. Senior Lionel Breaux, sophomore Jesse Grandy, redshirt freshman Ja-Mes Logan and sophomore Melvin Harris will be fighting it out for those spots.

New on the scene: Three junior college newcomers could play key roles this season. Damien Jackson made a ton of big plays in the spring and will push to be the starter at free safety. Wayne Dorsey enters the preseason as the starter at defensive end opposite Kentrell Lockett, and Nutt wants to get Randall Mackey the ball in several different spots on offense. Mackey was a quarterback in junior college, but may bounce around a little bit for the Rebels. Redshirt freshman Charles Sawyer will compete for a starting cornerback job. True freshman Mike Marry should play some at linebacker, while true freshman Carlos Thompson may be hard to keep off the field at defensive end.

Breaking out: Sophomore linebacker D.T. Shackelford showed enough flashes as a freshman that you knew it was just a matter of time before he became a marquee player in this league. That time may be now.

Don’t forget about: Senior nose tackle Jerrell Powe gets most of the publicity on Ole Miss’ defensive front and rightfully so. He’s one of the best interior defensive linemen in the league. But senior Ted Laurent is equally imposing in the middle of that defensive line and was named the Rebels’ most improved defensive player in the spring.

All eyes on: Senior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. Nobody in the SEC, maybe the country, will have more eyes on him than Masoli, the star of the Oregon team until he was dismissed following his second run-in with the law. Nutt said Masoli’s on a zero-tolerance leash. But if he stays out of trouble and plays the way he did at Oregon, he’s just the kind of playmaker the Rebels are looking for on offense. Masoli still has to beat out sophomore Nathan Stanley for the job. Stanley exited the spring as the starter, although he doesn’t have any meaningful experience. Nutt’s probably not going to thrust Masoli to the top of the depth chart right away, but he also didn’t roll the dice on a player with Masoli’s baggage to have him sit on the bench and serve as a backup all season.

Quoting: “Nobody gave us a chance when coach Nutt first came in. I think we do really well when we don’t have a lot of expectations.” -- Ole Miss nose tackle Jerrell Powe

Nutt knows his reputation is on the line

August, 2, 2010
8/02/10
10:45
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Say this for Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt.

He’s not going into this whole Jeremiah Masoli gamble blindly. Rather, his eyes are wide open.

Who could blame him?

If Masoli gets as much as a traffic citation while he’s in Oxford, it’s not going to be pretty.

Talk about being in the ultimate fish bowl. Masoli will have to watch his every step, but it sounds like that’s already been pounded into his head while he was on campus for his visit.

Nutt told David Brandt of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, “The rules are going to be different for him. I told him I have zero tolerance. I have a hair-trigger. I know he knows I will pull the trigger so fast.”

Nutt also knows what’s being said about him, especially after the Rebels gambled and lost on another troubled player last year – Jamar Hornsby.

Nutt’s message to Masoli was brutally honest: “I’ve got eyes on me for taking a thug. That’s what people are saying. You’ve got to be able to handle it and be a positive kid.”

The early word from the Ole Miss players is that they’re on board with the addition of Masoli, especially if it makes them a better team.

In fact, when word first started to trickle out that Masoli might be interested in Ole Miss, senior defensive tackle Jerrell Powe told Nutt while the Rebels were in Hoover, Ala., for the SEC media days that they ought to go after him.

One way or the other, these next four months in Oxford ought to be mighty interesting.

Of course, as long as all the excitement stays on the field, Nutt and the Rebels should come out ahead.

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