Tag:Ole Miss
Posted on: April 4, 2011 1:06 pm
Edited on: April 4, 2011 1:08 pm
 

Rebels have leader in QB race, Tide still looking

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Having already updated the quarterback battle at one of the two SEC co-favorites earlier today in LSU , it's worth a look at how the same issue is playing out at the other, Alabama. The only problem is that at this stage, it doesn't sound like there's anything to report in the push-and-pull between redshirt freshman Phillip Sims and third-year sophomore A.J. McCarron (pictured):
The final decision of choosing a replacement for two-year starter Greg McElroy, ultimately to be made by coach Nick Saban, isn't expected until preseason practice.

Saban immediately addressed the current quarterback situation [following Saturday's closed scrimmage], but gave little away and discredited the statistics because the format of the scrimmage was not a true game format.

"Stats only tell you so much, and that's not how we make our evaluations," Saban said. "There are a lot of things that affect the outcome, and it's not all controlled by what they do. To really get a true picture of it, you need to evaluate it in the film, based on the decisions they made, the choices they made."

To hear Saban tell it, you might expect the stats from the scrimmage to lean heavily to one QB or the other, but even there, Sims and McCarron were nearly even; Sims went 20-of-30 for 235 yards with a 3-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, while McCarron finished 18-of-33 for 189 and a 3-to-1 ratio. Though McCarron probably remains a slight favorite based on his extra year at the Capstone (and Saban's praise means that Tide fans should be encouraged regardless), it's still far too early -- and the quarterbacks apparently too evenly matched -- to declare either one a leader in the Tide's quarterbacking race.

That might not be the case down the road at Ole Miss, where Randall Mackey has emerged as the Rebels' potential starter and, at the least, the most impressive quarterback of the Rebels' spring so far:
In a four-man battle for positioning on the depth chart at quarterback for Ole Miss, Mackey seemed to finish the first week a little better than the rest. In Saturday's 115-play scrimmage, he was 5-for-8 for 51 yards and a touchdown pass threaded with savvy into the back of the end zone for Korvic Neat ...

"He is oblivious to the rush," offensive coordinator David Lee said. "Just absolutely oblivious. He sees nothing but what he's throwing to downfield and where he's going to put the ball and give a receiver a chance to (catch) it better than all our guys right now. He's the most accurate. That's why we move the football so fast when he's in there."

Both Lee and UM head coach Houston Nutt said they wanted to see more of film before making more concrete evaluations. Yet both seemed to reserve their best praise for Mackey ...

"It ain't even close, boys," a spectator said, to no one in particular, as he walked past a group of reporters toward the end of Saturday's scrimmage.
If any of the other Rebel quarterbacks could have been expected to make the battle close, you'd have expected it to be Nathan Stanley, the junior who had the job won last spring before Jeremiah Masoli's transfer pushed him into the backup's role. But Stanley went just 3-of-9 in the scrimmage for only 11 yards.

It's not time just yet to side with the spectator who clearly believes the race is over. But with Mackey's apparent momentum -- and Stanley's current inability to match it -- it does seem fair to say that Mackey has earned the inside track to be under center when the Rebels open against BYU Sept. 3.


Posted on: April 1, 2011 5:48 pm
 

Friday Four Links (and a cloud of dust), 4/1

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Every Friday we catch up on four stories you might have missed during the week ... and add a few extra links to help take you into the weekend.


FOUR LINKS ...

1. National champions Auburn might not have enjoyed the HBO expose that aired this week, but they got plenty of love from more official channels, with the Alabama state House honoring Gene Chizik with a resolution and Cam Newton getting similar treatment from the legislature in his home state of Georgia. But for Auburn fans, the biggest honor of the week was the news that NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip will be driving this car at Talladega April 17 to commemorate the Tigers' achievement:



2. Sounds like Florida's going to have a friend in the broadcast booth this year as Jon Gruden attended Will Muschamp's first Gainesville coaching clinic and called the Muschamp-Charlie Weis coaching tandem "the best in college football." Also in attendance despite the rumors that he and Muschamp had not always seen eye-to-eye in Austin: former Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis.

3. You may have seen this already:



Even if you haven't, you know that there is only one coach who would put up a motivational chart with a "World of the Uninvested" and a "Circle of the Untrustables." Houston Nutt explains the chart and its genesis to the Clarion-Ledger here.

4. Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen doesn't sound like he's bearing any real grudge towards former head coach Dan Hawkins and his son, fellow (ex-)quarterback Cody Hawkins, but he does say Hawkins the Elder's handling of his son did include "a little nepotism." Which is why the whole situation sounds more than a little awkward.

... AND THE CLOUD

Jimbo Fisher is asking fans for their prayers and thoughts as his son Ethan battles an undisclosed health issue ... Former Texas Tech running back and Lubbock Avalanche-Journal guest columnist Baron Batch has a pretty amazing story to tell ... After $100,000 raises for each, Alabama coordinators Kirby Smart (defensive) and Jim McElwain (offensive) are earning a combined $1.36 milllion ... Speaking of contracts, Mike Locksley has renegotiated his New Mexico deal in a fashion that makes it easier for both parties to part ways ... Two reserve linemen for Michigan State have been knocked out of spring practice (and maybe longer) with injuries ... Marcus Davis, a backup safety at Oregon who'd transferred from Texas, has left the Duck program ... Colorado reported one secondary violation to the NCAA from their recent recruiting cycle, but since it's for feeding the 10-year-old brother of a visiting recruit, we doubt they're too ashamed about it ... Mississippi State has a new announcer for their radio broadcasts, always a big deal anywhere college football's a big deal ... Joe Bauserman is taking the first-team snaps at Ohio State quarterback while Terrelle Pryor recovers ... And here's video of Notre Dame's quarterbacks donning a helmet-cam for practice. Thus the indomitable sprit of the World League of American Football lives on.

Posted on: April 1, 2011 12:16 pm
 

Rebels' Lockett granted sixth year of eligibility

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

As we wrote in our Spring Practice Primer earlier this week, the biggest question facing the Ole Miss Rebels this spring -- despite having a new face at quarterback -- is how well Houston Nutt and defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix can rebuild a defense that was shredded for much of 2010 and loses most of what experience it had.

But thanks to an NCAA ruling announced yesterday, the Rebels won't lose quite as much as they might have thought; potential All-SEC defensive end Kentrell Lockett has been granted a sixth year of eligibility after his 2010 season was cut short by a knee injury after just four games. 

Lockett responded with typically charismatic glee for a player whose (since discontinued) Twitter feed earned its own cult following :
“I finally can go to sleep now, man,” Lockett said. “It’s been since September, you know, didn’t know what was going to happen. Just the uncertainty of it all was killing me, man. I cried many a night. I’ve been crying all day, I’m happy.”
Lockett's return mean the Rebels will return a player who racked up double-digit tackles-for-loss in his last full season and whose five sacks placed him second on the team in 2009. Though defensive end is one of the few places where Ole Miss would have had some measure of depth regardless (thanks to players like senior JUCO transfer Wayne Dorsey and junior Gerald Rivers), Lockett automatically becomes their best, most experienced player at the position.

So it's no surprise Nutt reacted to the news in the most Houston Nutt fashion possible:
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt opened his post-practice visit to reporters by smiling and rubbing his hands together.
Never change, Coach.

Posted on: March 30, 2011 12:02 pm
 

Ole Miss to unretire Chucky Mullins' No. 38

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Jersey No. 38 hasn't been worn at Ole Miss since 2006, and with good reason: it's the retired number worn by the late Chucky Mullins, the Rebel defender who was paralyzed in a 1989 Homecoming game. It's one of only two numbers to be retired at Ole Miss, the other belonging to Rebel uber-legend Archie Manning.

But Ole Miss announced yesterday that as part of an effort to honor Mullins' memory, the No. 38 will be making an emotional return to the field:

Bestowed on a rising senior defensive player each spring, the Chucky Mullins Courage Award winner had worn the late Mullins' No. 38 jersey from 1990 until 2006, when the M-Club Alumni Chapter passed a resolution for the retirement of the number ...

The M-Club's new resolution supports the decision for the No. 38 to remain retired and be worn only by the Chucky Mullins Courage Award recipient each year.

"It's important that the standard of courage and spirit that Chucky represents remains at the forefront of Ole Miss Football, for our players and our fans," said Ole Miss Director of Athletics Pete Boone. "Retiring Chucky's number was the ultimate way to honor his memory. However, we miss that constant reminder of his legacy that we had with the No. 38 on the field every Saturday. It should be a living number that is with us everyday, and I'm grateful for the former award winners who led the charge to bring it back."

"The Chucky Mullins Courage Award is one of the great honors in college football and is a special part of Ole Miss," said Rebel head coach Houston Nutt. "I'm excited to see 38 back on the field and know that others will be reminded of what Chucky stood for every time the Rebels play."

As for who'll wear it in 2011, the Mullins Courage Award winner will be announced at a team banquet April 14--an award that thanks to the jersey number that goes with it will carry even more honor this season (and for many seasons to come) than it already does.

Posted on: March 30, 2011 12:02 pm
 

Ole Miss to unretire Chucky Mullins' No. 38

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Jersey No. 38 hasn't been worn at Ole Miss since 2006, and with good reason: it's the retired number worn by the late Chucky Mullins, the Rebel defender who was paralyzed in a 1989 Homecoming game. It's one of only two numbers to be retired at Ole Miss, the other belonging to Rebel uber-legend Archie Manning.

But Ole Miss announced yesterday that as part of an effort to honor Mullins' memory, the No. 38 will be making an emotional return to the field:

Bestowed on a rising senior defensive player each spring, the Chucky Mullins Courage Award winner had worn the late Mullins' No. 38 jersey from 1990 until 2006, when the M-Club Alumni Chapter passed a resolution for the retirement of the number ...

The M-Club's new resolution supports the decision for the No. 38 to remain retired and be worn only by the Chucky Mullins Courage Award recipient each year.

"It's important that the standard of courage and spirit that Chucky represents remains at the forefront of Ole Miss Football, for our players and our fans," said Ole Miss Director of Athletics Pete Boone. "Retiring Chucky's number was the ultimate way to honor his memory. However, we miss that constant reminder of his legacy that we had with the No. 38 on the field every Saturday. It should be a living number that is with us everyday, and I'm grateful for the former award winners who led the charge to bring it back."

"The Chucky Mullins Courage Award is one of the great honors in college football and is a special part of Ole Miss," said Rebel head coach Houston Nutt. "I'm excited to see 38 back on the field and know that others will be reminded of what Chucky stood for every time the Rebels play."

As for who'll wear it in 2011, the Mullins Courage Award winner will be announced at a team banquet April 14--an award that thanks to the jersey number that goes with it will carry even more honor this season (and for many seasons to come) than it already does.

Posted on: March 28, 2011 7:40 pm
 

Eye on CFB Recruiting Review, 3/28

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Every Monday, our weekly Recruiting Review recaps the past week's top headlines from our sister blog, Bryan Fischer's Eye on Recruiting . Enjoy:
  • Florida enjoyed a huge week on the trail, first picking up mammoth (6'6", 315) Boynton Beach (Fla.) offensive tackle Jessamen Dunker, who took the Gators over several other SEC offers. Will Muschamp and Co. then dipped into Georgia to nab Stephenson High defensive tackle Jafar Mann. Mann is the second Stephenson product to join the Gators' class of 2012, joining teammate and running back Mike Davis.
  • Bryan offers up an exhaustive notebook from the recent Las Vegas BadgerSports 7-on-7 tournament, including looks at several of the West's top prospects, like corner Ishmael Adams.
  • In the Big 12, Texas A&M kept their susprising early-cycle momentum going with a 17th commitment, Missouri City (Texas) athlete Corey Thompson. But Oklahoma State also grabbed an important pledge, landing Lone Star state linebacker Jeremiah Tshimanaga. The Cowboys jumped on Tshimanaga as a sophomore and closed the deal with a recent visit. Texas Tech decided to look far outside the state for one of a pair of commitments Sunday, though, nabbing Miami-area linebacker Erick Hallmon.
  • In-state lineman Omari Palmer elected not to wait for even a second offer after receiving one from Syracuse, giving Doug Marrone's rising Orange their third commitment for 2012. Elsewhere in the Big East, Louisville added Indianapolis offensive lineman Sid Anvoots, their second commitment.
  • It was a busy weekend in the SEC. Auburn got things started with a commitment from Birmingham-based linebacker (and all-name team lock) Cassanova McKinzy, then kept it going when in-state receiver Alex Taylor chose the Tigers over Ole Miss and Nebraska. Georgia got a big commitment from coveted tight end Ty Smith. And LSU found a way to add a highly-prized athlete to their 2011 class , signing former Oregon commitment Jerrard Randall nearly two months after Signing Day. Randall was denied admissions in Eugene after failing to make the grade on a qualifying test, but after retaking the test will be good to go in Baton Rouge.
One more reminder: if you don't want to wait for these Monday recaps, simply read Eye on Recruiting . You'll be glad you did.
Posted on: March 28, 2011 3:14 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Ole Miss

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice  . So we here at the Eye on College Football    will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers   . Today, we look at Ole Miss , which starts spring practice today.

Spring Practice Question: Can the Ole Miss defense be rebuilt?

As the local Clarion-Ledger pointed out today , the headline story regarding Houston Nutt's fourth spring camp at the Rebel helm will undoubtedly be the quarterback derby. Following Jeremiah Masoli's single-season cameo, four different quarterbacks are battling it out under new Rebel offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach David Lee: pocket passers Nathan Stanley (Masoli's backup in 2010 and the narrow favorite) and JUCO transfer Zack Stoudt, and dual-threat QBs Randall Mackey and Barry Brunetti. (Brunetti, a transfer from West Virginia, will need a hardship waiver from the NCAA in order to avoid sitting out his transfer year this fall.) Lee swears any of the four could be named the Rebel starter this fall, and given how little experience any of the four enters the competition with, he's likely not exaggerating.

But as intriguing as the quarterback battle promises to be, what's most important for the Rebels' chances this fall is what will happen on the other side of the ball. While the occasionally-rocky transition to Masoli drew plenty of attention, in the end the Rebels finished a respectable 43rd in total offense. But despite the presence of eight senior starters to begin the season, Ole Miss finished a disastrous 105th in the country in yards per-play allowed, worst in the SEC. It's fair to say the Rebels weren't paying defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix one of the nation's highest assistant salaries to watch the team lose games in which they scored 24, 31, 36 or -- in the case of their infamous season-opening embarrassment against FCS Jacksonville State -- 48 points.

Nix has survived to try and clean up his own mess, but it's not clear if he has the tools with which to do it. As you might expect from that "eight senior starters" detail, the Rebels' defensive losses are major; gone are All-SEC tackle Jerrell Powe, explosive defensive end Kentrell Lockett, leading tackler and tackler-for-loss linebacker Jonathan Cornell, a pair of senior safeties, assorted other contributors at tackle, corner, and linebacker ... Nix won't be starting from scratch, but scratch and the point he'll start from won't be more than a stone's throw apart.

There is good news for the Ole Miss defense, though, and it's two-fold:

1. Obviously, all of those seniors didn't do a whole lot for the Rebels in 2010. While there's no good way to spin the losses of players like Powe and Cornell, as a unit Ole Miss really can't get a whole lot worse than they were last season. In many cases, the new blood may prove to be a better option than the old blood was anyway.

2. Thanks to some impressive recruiting hauls (particularly by Ole Miss standards) by Nutt and his staff, the talent cupboard is far from bare. Nix won't have a lot in the way of experience to work with, but the raw material with which a good defense could be constructed should be there.

That's especially true in the front seven, where Nix will call on junior linebacker D.T. Shackelford to spearhead the rush defense after Shackelford recorded 9 tackles-for-loss a year ago and continued to flash the kind of big-hitting potential that made him one of Nutt's most prized recruits in the class of 2009. Junior weakside linebacker Joel Kight should also be ready for a big season after winning a starting job in last year's fall camp, making the LBs a strength. If Nix can find any tackles following the loss of the entire rotation from a year ago -- expect 310-pound JUCO arrival Gilbert Pena to get a long look -- the line shouldn't be too shabby, either, given the presence of high-ceiling ends like senior Wayne Dorsey, junior Gerald Rivers and sophomore Cameron Whigham. (If Lockett receives a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, things will look even better this fall.)

The biggest question mark is in the secondary, which a year ago was roasted to the tune of 8.4 yards per passing attempt and a 6-to-24 interception-to-touchdown ratio, both easily the worst marks in the SEC. Up to nine players will compete for the four starting spots (though returning starting corner Marcus Temple is out with a sports hernia), but are any of them SEC caliber? Nix will have to hope so, with the most likely candidates senior safety Damien Jackson and sophomore safety Brishen Matthews.

No one would argue the quarterback battle isn't critical. But with what should be one of the SEC's best offensive lines (one with all five starters returning), rugged running back Branden Bolden, several big-play receivers, and Nutt and Lee's combined offensive acumen, the Rebels should have a functional attack no matter who winds up taking snaps.

The same simply can't be said of the Rebel defense--meaning that even if the QB competition grabs the headlines, it's a sure bet it's the battles on the other side of the ball that will have a huge, huge share of the coaches' attention. If Nix can't find the players this spring that will push his unit forward this fall, the Rebels are going to almost certainly spend a second season in the cellar of the SEC West.

Posted on: March 22, 2011 3:14 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2011 4:19 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Tennessee

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Tennessee , who starts spring practice today .

Spring Practice Question: Can Tennessee make enough strides along the line of scrimmage to threaten the teams at the top of the SEC East?

There was a time when Tennessee fans would have greeted a 6-7 overall record featuring one SEC win over a team that wasn't Vanderbilt or Kentucky -- and that one coming over an utterly mediocre Ole Miss outfit -- with as much hostility as a Gator frigate or Tide destroyer attempting to take sail alongside the Vol Navy. But that time came before the decline of Phil Fulmer and the abbreviated reign of Lane Kiffin, the combination of which turned what had been one of the nation's most feared programs into a smoking orange crater when Derek Dooley was hired in early 2010. Given the major headaches Dooley inherited, the bottom-of-the-barrel expectations for 2010, and the infamous victories against LSU and North Carolina that got yoinked away after the final whistle, 6-7 really wasn't so bad ... and so it's no surprise that rather than looking for a rail on which to run Dooley out of town, Vol fans enter 2011 with a healthy amount of optimism regarding both their head coach and the program's direction.

But steadying the Vols' ship is one thing. Bringing it safely into port alongside Florida or Georgia or now South Carolina atop the SEC East standings is something else entirely. And though no one will blame Dooley for not bringing home a divisional title in 2011, there will undoubtedly be some disappointment in Knoxville if the Vols aren't more competitive against the aforementioned trio; even with the Gators and Dawgs fielding their weakest teams in a decade or more, Tennessee fell to each by a combined 41 points. Though a second-half comeback made the Vols' contest against the division-winning Gamecocks more interesting, ultimately that game ended in a 14-point UT loss, too.

So how does Dooley close the gap? The easiest answer will be getting an entire season out of quarterback Tyler Bray , the true freshman who took over from the erratic Matt Simms at midseason and sparked a startling offensive resurgence, leading Tennessee to 335 or more yards of offense in its final six games despite the team not crossing that threshold once in its first seven.

But as starry-eyed as Vol fans might be regarding Bray's future, even Dooley's not expecting him to be a finished product this fall. "If he doesn't understand something, he doesn't care. He's just going to do something else," Dooley said at a pre-spring media luncheon Monday. "We'll be the ones throwing our hats because he throws it to the wrong guy and it's a touchdown."

Spring Practice Primers
Getting Bray to understand something and rely less on throwing it to the wrong guys -- touchdown or not -- will be one of the primary focuses of the Volunteers' spring. But maybe more important is the place where even more improvement is needed for the Vols to take the next step in their recovery--the line of scrimmage.

It wasn't a surprise, of course, that the Vols struggled with an entirely new offensive line and new starters at both defensive tackle positions. But struggle they did: dead last in the SEC in sacks allowed, dead last in both total rushing and yards per-carry, ninth in yards per-carry allowed, ninth in sacks in conference play. However you sliced it, the Vol lines weren't pretty.

But they were also some of the youngest in the country, and there's reason to think they'll be substantially better this year. On offense, NFL-sized (6'7", 320 pounds) true freshman tackle JuWuan James earned a starting job in fall camp, started all 13 games, and landed first-team Freshman All-SEC honors. Fellow freshmen James Stone, Zach Fulton, and JerQuari Schofield had all likewise entered the starting lineup by season's end, with sophomore Dallas Thomas also making a name for himself. Assuming the five of them take the leap forward expected of rising sophomores (and a rising junior) who have their first year of serious action already under their belt, the Vol line could go from a position of obvious weakness to a borderline strength.

It's much the same story along the defensive front. Ends Gerald Williams and Chris Walker may have graduated, but there's plenty of talent left in their place. The new defensive tackle pairing of Montori Hughes and Malik Jackson had its positive moments as well as its struggles (Jackson led the team with five sacks) and should be much-improved in their second year in the starting lineup. On the ends, yet another true freshman -- Jacques Smith -- came on late in the year and landed on the league all-freshman team. Fellow true frosh Corey Miller was almost as impressive in limited time, and the two look set to serve as sophomore bookends this season.

Overall, the Volunteers will remain so young on both lines that neither can be expected to join the ranks of the SEC's best just yet. But with burgeoning talents like Bray, running back Tauren Poole, wide receiver Justin Hunter, and corner Marsalis Teague (not to mention Janzen Jackson, the troubled safety who withdrew from school with personal issues but who Dooley says is "on pace" to return), as long as there's improvement up front, there should be improvement on the scoreboard as well.

Some of that improvement is likely. But we'll find out this spring how much the Vols can actually expect ... and if it's Dooley or the Gators, Dawgs, or Gamecocks who need to be sweating once spring is done.


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com