Published on March 24th, 2014 | by Red Cup Rebellion0
Five Questions for Ole Miss Spring Football
The 2014 Ole Miss Grove Bowl will be held on Saturday, April 5 at 12 noon.
Let’s get this out of the way right now: spring football, aside from giving the players and coaches something to do, adds little real value to a division one football program. Players would be in workouts and unofficial practice routines without an NCAA-sanctioned round of spring practices, the operation is a giant suck on athletic budgets, and players are put at a completely unnecessary injury risk.
That all said, it’s fun for fans and it gives us all something to look forward to, so we are going to talk about it regardless. As we at the Cup see it, there are five questions which we hope spring football can answer.
Who will be the backup QB?
For as much grief as fans gave him towards the end of the regular season, Bo Wallace put together an excellent 2013 performance, and will return as one of the SEC’s most accomplished and capable quarterbacks in 2014. If he can stay healthy, he could conceivably put in another 3,500+ total yard performance, which would, believe it or not, be good enough to break Eli Manning’s career yardage record set in 2003.
But who will back him up? In a lot of offensive systems, that’s a dumb question. Not in Hugh Freeze’s, where last year’s backup, Barry Brunetti, accounted for ten touchdowns throughout the year. In certain situations, Coach Hugh Freeze likes to put the backup quarterback in a run-heavy set, hopefully creating mismatches and providing for unusually open receivers on third down or in the red zone. Will that job go to Devante Kincade, the speedy gunslinger out of Texas, or Ryan Buchanan, the tall, athletic Jackson native? Or could Lafayette County’s own Jeremy Liggins get that role? One thing we do know is that, in the spring, all of them will get plenty of chances to prove themselves.
How do the young backs sort out?
With Jeff Scott graduating, the bulk of the Rebel running game will be in the hands of the capable duo of I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton. Will a change-of-pace or third down back emerge among a handful of suitors? Will Memphis natives Jordan Wilkins or Mark Dodson Jr. earn more touches? Or will they simply be buying time until incoming freshman Akeem Judd can prove himself?
Can Christian Russell step into the starting middle linebacker role?
With linebacker Mike Marry’s graduation, the Rebels are looking to fill in his spot in the middle of what should otherwise be a solid defense. Enter Christian Russell, a transfer from East Mississippi Community College who, at 245 pounds, is an ideal size for an SEC linebacker. He originally committed to North Carolina out of high school, but had to attend junior college to get his grades in order. Now that he’s NCAA eligible, he’ll be a part of the Rebel football program this spring, and could start right away. He has big shoes to fill, and we hope he can live handle what are surely already lofty expectations.
What happens at safety?
Folks who have watched Ole Miss Football for a long time are probably a bit taken aback by this fact, but we somehow have found ourselves in a situation where we might have too many capable safeties. I might be selling the situation up a bit, but consider the following: Cody Prewitt led the SEC in interceptions last year, and was named an all-American for his efforts; Trae Elston has started many games over the past two seasons, even starting many as a freshman, making him a very experienced junior; Chief Brown split time with the both of them, and admirably; Tony Connor held down the husky spot – a hybrid linebacker/safety role – well enough to be named a freshman all-American; and the Rebels welcome two new safeties this spring in Anthony Alford and C.J. Hampton. Alford was one of the top athletes in Mississippi as a high schooler, and C.J. Hampton is an early enrolled freshman who spurned Alabama and LSU for a chance to play for the Rebs.
In a perfect world, we’d have all of them on the field at the same time. How we can scheme and plan to get the most out of all of them is something the coaches can hopefully begin to figure out this spring.
Can the newcomers make a name for themselves?
Last fall, several freshmen showed that this program does give young talent the chance to succeed. Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil, Evan Engram, Tony Conner, Laquon Treadwell, and several others showed that the future is indeed bright for the Rebels. If some of the newest members of the Ole Miss Squad, such as safety C.J. Hampton or athlete Jeremy Liggins, can do the same, then we know that we will have even more to look forward to this fall.
Happy spring football, y’all. Hotty Toddy, and we’ll see y’all at the Grove Bowl.
This article was originally printed in The Local Voice #199 (published March 6, 2014). To download a PDF of this issue, click HERE.