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4. Ole Miss Rebels (9-3, 5-3)
Rankings (Ex, Vg, Av, Fr, Pr)
Running Backs: Av
Wide Receivers: Av
Offensive Line: Av
Defensive Line: Fr
Defensive Backs: Av
Special Teams: Fr
Overall, the Rebels improved their talent over the offseason and have potentially the SEC’s best quarterback in Matt Corral. But questions abound on defense, and unlike 2020, Ole Miss won’t be sneaking up on anyone this time. A soft out-of-conference schedule will fatten the win totals, but even though nine wins is within grasp, the Rebels probably aren’t in the same tier as LSU, Texas A&M and Alabama.
Offense: What could go right
Matt Corral threw for 3,337 yards and 29 touchdowns in an abbreviated season last year, further cementing Lane Kiffin’s reputation as a master developer of quarterbacks. Depth is good enough behind him, in the form of Kinkead Dent and Luke Altmyer, that John Rhys Plumlee will end up playing all over the field as sort of a utility knife player; he’s listed right now as a wideout primarily. The running back group, led by Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner, has the potential to be as solid as any group in recent Rebel memory. The receiver group as a whole has potential, but has to replace a lot of production now that Elijah Moore is in the NFL.
Offense: What could go wrong
Corral also threw 14 interceptions in 10 games last year and has a tendency to let himself go a little berserk from time to time. Kiffin will need to continue to closely manage his energy level. Dontario Drummond is expected to be the lead receiver, but he lacks elite height or quickness, and may be on the verge of getting exposed. There is no proven product at tight end, a big position in a Kiffin offense that was filled last year by Kenny Yeboah. The offensive line, though, is where most of the real questions are. The Rebels have a couple of quality guys, but there are questions at guard and depth is suspect.
Defense: What could go right
Anything would be an improvement over 2020, when Ole Miss’ defense was a borderline laughingstock. The strength of the defense is the linebacker group, and mostly because everyone has been there forever. Four seniors came out of the spring as the likely two-deep in Ole Miss’ 4-2-5 base set, including a graduate transfer, Maryland’s Chance Campbell; he collected honorable mention All-Big Ten accolades while with the Terrapins. Ole Miss also went after Georgia transfer S Otis Reese in hopes that he can solidify a porous secondary.
Defense: What could go wrong
Did you watch the 2020 season? Roll the tape. Ole Miss’ defensive line will get a complete rebuild, but the Rebels are banking on junior college transfers to make it all work. The secondary should be considered a problem until it proves otherwise, and even though the linebacker group is among the most senior in the conference in 2021, everyone there still needs to step up and play with more gap discipline. Throwing special teams into the discussion, Ole Miss was hit-or-miss in coverage and returns and will be breaking in a new kicker.
One-sentence summary: Getting better, but this year is not the Rebels’ year.
Four near-guaranteed wins outside of conference play will make the record gaudy enough to fool those who don’t look deep enough, but the Rebel coaches know what’s up. Kiffin spent the solid majority of his Signing Day efforts shoring up the defense, and the Rebels hit the transfer portal hard. Now they have to transfer from simply outscoring opponents, to beating them in all phases of the game.
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