Ole Miss spring wrap

2010 overall record: 4-8

2010 conference record: 1-7

Returning starters

Offense: 9; Defense: 5; Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

RB Brandon Bolden, RB Jeff Scott, OT Bradley Sowell, OG Alex Washington, WR Melvin Harris, DE Kentrell Lockett, CB Marcus Temple, S Damien Jackson

Key losses

QB Jeremiah Masoli, WR Markeith Summers, DT Jerrell Powe, DT Ted Laurent, LB Jonathan Cornell, LB Allen Walker, S Johnny Brown, CB Jeremy McGee

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Bolden* (976 yards)

Passing: Masoli (2,039 yards)

Receiving: Summers (575 yards)

Tackles: Cornell (80)

Sacks: D.T. Shackelford (5)

Interceptions: Charles Sawyer*, Fon Ingram (2)

Spring answers

1. Complete running game: The one sure thing in Oxford is that the Rebels will be able to lean on their running game this fall. Senior Bolden continued to impress during spring, earning the most outstanding offensive player of spring drills award, and backups Scott and Enrique Davis each had very solid springs. Scott is the slicer and dicer out of the backfield, while Bolden is a pure power runner. With Davis, Ole Miss gets a little of both. The Rebels will need everything they can churn out of the running game because inexperience is the backbone of the quarterback and wide receiver positions.

2. Offensive line strength: Making that running game even better will be a veteran offensive line. Ole Miss returns All-SEC caliber tackles Sowell and Bobby Massie and has seven players that started two or more games each on the offensive line in 2010. While there was some movement on the line this spring, the position should be one of the strengths this fall for the Rebels. Senior left guard Washington is back, while Arkansas junior transfer Matt Hall, who split time with Jared Duke, saw action last fall at right guard.

3. Legendary Lockett: The Rebels suffered a devastating blow this spring when linebacker D.T. Shackelford went down with a knee injury that will likely cost him his senior season. However, Ole Miss was fortunate enough to get senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett back, who was granted a hardship waiver by the NCAA after suffering a season-ending knee injury at the beginning of last season. Lockett was a preseason All-SEC pick a year ago and has 22.5 career tackles for loss. Lockett brings not only the presence of a relentless pass rusher to the defense but he’ll be one of the leaders of the team. The Rebels will need him as a force on the field and in the locker room this fall.

Fall questions

1. Young guns: While Ole Miss’ coaches were pretty pleased with the play of their quarterbacks this spring, the Rebels will enter fall camp with a trio of inexperienced signal callers. Redshirt junior Randall Mackey left spring with a slight edge over West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti and junior college transfer Zack Stoudt. The good news was that Brunetti was granted a waiver by the NCAA to play immediately, but he’s got minimal experience. Mackey and Stoudt have none. Regardless of who starts, the winner will have to go through some tough growing pains this season.

2. Unproven receivers: Not making the quarterback situation any better is the fact that the Rebels have yet to find a true playmaker in the receiving corps. Offensive coordinator David Lee said during the spring that the most consistent thing his receivers were doing was dropping the ball. That improved toward the end of spring, but Ole Miss is still looking for someone to break out of the group and take hold of the position. The Rebels still have junior Melvin Harris, who was second on the team a year ago with 30 catches and 408 yards. Redshirt freshman Vincent Sanders, who had a spring game-high 96 yards on four catches, could have the most natural athleticism at the position, but will have to sure up his inconsistencies as well.

3. Defensive marks: The Rebels’ defense has a lot of question marks at the moment. The secondary improved this spring, but it is still young and the group was a major issue last fall. Lockett is back at defensive end, but, as a whole, the defensive line is still pretty green. Making matters even worse was the loss of Shackelford. There is not only a gaping hole at linebacker but Ole Miss lost the soul of its team. Replacing both aspects of what made Shackelford unique won’t be easy. The Rebels worked Mike Marry, Clarence Jackson and Ralph Williams in Shackelford’s spot, but incoming freshman C.J. Johnson could end up with the spot this year. Regardless, the defense has a ton of maturing to do this year.