Ole Miss undergoing offensive overhaul

Players and coaches come and go every year in the SEC.

But rarely has there been a mass exodus like the one taking place at Ole Miss on offense.

Kent Austin, the Rebels’ offensive coordinator for the last two seasons, is the latest to leave. He will reportedly be named the head coach at Cornell on Wednesday.

Suffice it to say that the Rebels will be starting over on offense next season.

Quarterback Jevan Snead gave up his senior season to enter the NFL draft, and both of the Rebels’ top offensive playmakers – Dexter McCluster and Shay Hodge – were seniors.

Go back and look at what Ole Miss’ offensive production would have looked like last season without those two guys.

The middle of the Rebels’ offensive line was also gutted. Gone are senior guards John Jerry and Reid Neely and senior center Daverin Geralds.

As Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt searches for Austin’s replacement, one of his first calls will almost certainly be to David Lee, who was Nutt’s offensive coordinator at Arkansas in 2007. Lee followed Nutt to Ole Miss as offensive coordinator, but took a job with the Miami Dolphins as quarterbacks coach soon after arriving in Oxford.

No matter who Nutt hires, this spring ought to be an interesting time around the offensive side of the field at Ole Miss.

Sophomore Nathan Stanley and redshirt freshman Raymond Cotton will battle it out for the starting quarterback job. Once junior college newcomer Randall Mackey arrives in the summer, he's one of those guys capable of lining up at several different spots – including quarterback.

The Rebels have numbers at running back and receiver. They just need to find some consistent playmakers.

Jesse Grandy and Rodney Scott showed flashes as true freshmen. Grandy was sensational at times in the return game. It’s critical that Pat Patterson take a big step, too, after a hot and cold freshman season. He has all the physical gifts to be a marquee receiver in this league if he matures.

Running back Tim Simon won’t be around in the spring after suffering a serious knee injury last season, but the Rebels could get him back in time for the start of the season. Depending on how his recovery goes, the 6-1, 213-pound Simon could be the wild card for the Rebels in their offensive backfield.

And up front, Ole Miss will be counting more than ever on Bobby Massie, who ended his freshman season as the starting right tackle.

The bottom line: The Rebels are going to look a lot different on offense in 2010.