The 2017 college football season is right around the corner, and the Rebels officially kick off fall camp on Wednesday with some new faces on both the coaching staff and the team. While there may be some outside distractions that are a hot topic for many, interim head coach Matt Luke and his team are focused solely on preparing for battle on the gridiron.
Here are three important areas to watch as Ole Miss enters fall camp:
Defense limiting explosive plays
Last season, Ole Miss gave up 246.3 rushing yards and 214.9 yards through the air per game. Rebel opponents averaged 34 points per game, while the offense averaged 32.6 points per contest.
Ole Miss will look to replace talented players such as Issac Gross, D.J. Jones, Fadol Brown, John Youngblood, Tony Conner and Tony Bridges.
The 2017 Rebels defensive line looks very promising with Benito Jones, Marquis Haynes, and Breeland Speaks bringing back some much-needed experience.
Senior linebacker DeMarquis Gates, who led the team in tackles in each of the last two seasons, is also returning this year. Junior Detric-Bing Dukes and senior Tayler Polk combined for 75 tackles last season and will see the field, playing alongside Gates.
The secondary was young last season, but this year returners Zedrick Woods, Myles Hartsfield, Jaylon Jones, Jalen Julius now have some experience under their belts.
True freshmen who could make an impact
With a number of talented freshmen set to take the field this fall, here are some who could make an impact this season.
D.D. Bowie – Cornerback
Bowie is an incredibly athletic freshman who may be able to offer some depth in the corner rotation this year. However, look for him to also make his presence felt on special teams as a return man.
Mohamed Sanogo – Linebacker
Sanogo has all the physical attributes to enter into the linebacker rotation as a true freshman. He’s big and strong and the Rebels could definitely use some depth at linebacker. Don’t be surprised to see him on the field early this season.
Josh Clarke – linebacker
Clark is another true freshman who has an opportunity to be on the field at linebacker this season for the Rebels. The 6’3, 225-lb New Orleans native has all the tools to make his mark in an area in which the Rebels need a little help.
Zikerrion Baker – Linebacker
Baker is yet another linebacker who could come in and make the rotation for the Rebels. The Mooringsport, LA native is 6’1, 210 pounds and was a late qualifier for Ole Miss. He is another talented newcomer who could find himself on the field if he has a good fall camp.
Rebels have the tools to hit the ground running
Jordan Wilkins missed all of last season, and the Rebels are looking forward to having him back in pads. He is a senior this year and has the most experience of the backs. He’s hungry and will most likely get a bulk of the carries.
Senior Eugene Brazley and sophomore Eric Swinney will also see the field at running back. Joining them on the roster will be D.K. Buford, D’Vaughn Pennamon, Jarrion Street, and Isaiah Woullard—the state of Mississippi’s all-time leading high school rusher.
The depth is there for the Rebels to throw different styles of backs at their opponents. Look for the running game to give the offense some more balance this season.