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