Another tough blow for Ole Miss

A little more than a week ago, they were rejoicing at Ole Miss after receiving the news that senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett had been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.

Much more somber news arrived Tuesday when MRI results revealed that junior linebacker D.T. Shackelford tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Monday's practice. He will have surgery in the next two weeks, and Ole Miss officials are saying his recovery time will last anywhere from six to eight months.

In other words, the Rebels will likely be without Shackelford for all of next season.

That's a blow in so many different ways for the Rebels. From a production standpoint, he was easily Ole Miss' best linebacker, a guy they could move around and get production out of no matter where he lined up. He was also one of the better pass-rushers on the team and started five games at defensive end last season.

Having Shackelford and Lockett on the field together would have opened up a lot of possibilities for Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix. Both are big-time pass-rushers, and both have a knack for making big plays.

What's more, having them both on field together was exactly the kind of leadership the Rebels needed on defense after going through the struggles they did a year ago on that side of the ball.

Shackelford was the heartbeat of Ole Miss' team in a lot of ways. He set the tone with his work ethic, was also a vocal leader and saw to it that everybody was on the same page.

Had you asked Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt entering the spring who was the guy he could least afford to lose on this team to injury, I guarantee you that Shackelford would have been one of the first or second names to come out of his mouth.

Plus, the Rebels were already losing two senior starters at linebacker in Jonathan Cornell and Allen Walker.

Sophomore middle linebacker Mike Marry and junior strong side linebacker Joel Kight have both had good springs. But the weakside spot is wide open, meaning incoming freshman C.J. Johnson will get every opportunity to show what he can do. Johnson was one of the Rebels' most prized signees in this class.