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.