Ole Miss Rebels
Head Coach: Matt Luke
2018 Record: 5-7, 1-7 Conference
O/U 5 wins (O +115, U -145)
To Make Final 4: +30000
The Ole Miss Rebels stunk it up in the SEC, winning just one game, a 37-33 victory over Arkansas. The team has tried to install a run-first offense while handing the quarterback role off to Matt Corral, a redshirt freshman. Corral looked good in spring. The defense will move into a 3-4 scheme that hopefully improves a group that ranked No. 97 or lower in every major defensive category last season.
The Rebels have four scholarship athletes at quarterback, but all are freshmen. Corral is the best of this quartet, standing 6’1” and 207 pounds, but having a nice arm that is accurate with good ball placement for his receivers. He is a running quarterback when the situation calls for it, and the Rebels are hoping for more ball carrying from the QB position than in years’ past. The WR group is high in talent but inexperienced, too.
Three starters leave from last season’s group, and TE Dawson Knox is out as well. Instead, expect sophomore slot receiver Elijah Moore to be a star in 2019. Moore had 36 catches for 398 yards last season, and he is capable of making big plays in tight coverage. Bravlon Sanders also will be a long-pass target. He averaged 16.9 yards-per-catch last season, but he should get a lot more opportunities this year. At running back, Scottie Phillips could be among the SEC’s best. He fell just shy of 1k yards last year, as a first-year JUCO transfer. Only an ankle injury kept him from reaching that mark. The Rebels are rebuilding its offensive line with only two returning starters, so that looms as an area of concern, too.
Ole Miss is adjusting to a new scheme with players learning new roles, which could stunt things for a bit. Qaadir Sheppard started his NCAA career at Syracuse, but he had 10 tackles for a loss last season and he should be a key performer. The run has to be stopped better, though. The Rebels surrendered 221.8 rushing yards per contest, and its hope is that the 3-4 scheme is better suited towards stopping opposing running backs.
JUCO transfer Sam Williams should help a lot with that, as well as with the pass-rushing. He is 6’3” 258 pounds and had 17.5 sacks in 2018 playing for the Northeast Mississippi Community College. Junior linebacker Mohamed Sang had 112 tackles last year and is going to be a force on the inside. JUCO transfer Lakia Henry will be on the other inside spot, and he will have to learn quickly after missing the spring session.
OLBs should help with the five-man front, and interior linemen Benito Jones and Josiah Coatney both will be featured at nose guard and on the end. Jones had nine tackles for loss last season, while Coatney ranked No. 3 in tackles with 63 total. Jaylon Jones will be returning to the secondary, and he should be recovered from ACL surgery.
Luke Logan and Mac Brown return as starters. Logan hit 22 field goals last year, to tie a school record, but he missed two from within 30-yards and missed a PAT. Brown averaged 41.2 yards per punt. Jaylon Jones is a great runner man and will handle kickoff returns, while Moore will be in charge of punt returns. Jones averaged 25.0 yards per kick return in 2017, including a 94-yard TD against Texas Tech before he suffered his injury.
The Rebels are just too inexperienced at too many key positions on offense, and SEC defenses will feast on the inevitable mistakes and turnovers. NCAA sanctions are, of course, partly to blame for the weaker roster and lacking talent at many key positions. This team will strive to make a Bowl game, but it is far from being anywhere near a contender in its conference.
Prediction: 5 wins