05 August 2010
Well, needless to say that recent events have called for me to make some changes to my 2010 Preview & Prediction for "The School Up North". I pretty much had it all but finished until Jeremiah Masoli was granted entrance to play this upcoming season in Oxford. At that point, I had to reconsider my own forecast for the Rebels, but many questions still remain. Can Masoli be what he was at Oregon? How strong will OM be on Offense, considering they only return 1 starter? Is their front 7 on D, the best in the SEC? What about the kicking game? What about that young Off. Line? Questions, some good, some bothersome for Reb fans. With that in mind, let's look at the OM personnel for 2010...
At QB: Unless you have been living under a rock over the past week, you are well aware that OM's QB situation has changed, and possibly for the better. Just weeks ago, it appeared Nathan Stanley was going to enter summer camp atop the depth chart, ready to lead 'his' Offense. Now, he'll have to hold off former Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli. As summer camp starts, so does the battle at 'signal-caller'. In Masoli, Houston Nutt would have an experienced college QB who played in the Rose Bowl last season, a decent arm, and a kid who is renown for making plays with his feet. Masoli has the ability to run the read option, and can extend plays long enough to get his WR's open. Masoli's style is quite a contrast, when compared to the drop back passing style of Stanley. As a reserve, Nutt has a JUCO All-American in Randall Mackey, who might be used in more versatile packages (Wild Rebel). If OM is going to prosper from having Masoli on its' team, Nutt and Dave Rader (Off. Coordinator) will have to develop some type of style that fits Masoli. Otherwise, having this former Duck running a pro-style offense would just be an insult to the kid's abilities. Questions: (1) What kind of physical shape is Masoli in, considering his future was up in the air for the last 6 months? (2) How quickly can he learn the OM Offense? (3) Will Nutt use a 2 QB system? (4) Can Stanley hold off Masoli for the starting nod?
At RB: OM returns Brandon Bolden, Enrique Davis, and Rodney Scott. Bolden is a hard-nosed runner, but took a back seat to Dexter McCluster last season. On top of that, Bolden really struggled for yardage in conference games, only bringing in close to 300 yds. Davis hasn't turned out to be quite the 'player' he was supposed to be, and coaches didn't see enough to change their minds this spring. With that said, Davis probably has the most talent of the 3. Rodney Scott got his first taste of SEC football as a Freshman last season, seeing action in almost every game. Scott was arrested in off season, so he may be in the Nutt House (best I could do, sorry, I don't know the equivalent of 'dog house' for Rebels). I look for Bolden to own the position, and with McCluster out of his way, the Junior will put up much better numbers. Davis could make major contributions, but remains a question mark.
At WR: If there is a need for play makers, it's at the receiver position. Gone is Shay Hodge and the recently kicked-off Patrick Patterson. Who's left? Sr. Markeith Summers and So. Lionel Breaux. Between the two, they only accounted for 30 receptions in 2009. With neither guy finishing as 1 of the top 3 returning receivers, Dave Rader's eyes are on R-Freshman Ja-Mes Logan, who showed promise this spring. Jesse Grandy does return, but his size limits him to the screen game, reverses, and the occasional deep ball. Of the 4, Grandy has the best speed by far, and is one of the most dangerous players in the SEC when he gets loose. Still questions remain about the core.
On the OL: The clear leader of this bunch will be Bradley Sowell, mainly because he is the only returning starter on the OL. The highly touted Bobby Massie, returns for his So. season, but coaches seem to be wanting more leadership and consistency from the youngster. The group could field a decent set, if and only if Rishaw Johnson performs well and stays out of the Nutt House himself. Just in case the Rebs have to raid the depth chart, there are some lettermen in the waiting (only 3 Freshmen).
On the DL: As I mentioned earlier, the front 7 of OM's D, could be very good. If anything, the strength of the team. The Rebs lost Greg Hardy and Marcus Tillman, but this year's group will be led by DT Jerrell Powe, DE Kentrell Lockett, and JUCO standout DE Wayne Dorsey. Both Lockett and Powe, have a knack for finding their way into the Offensive backfield, disrupting the run and passing game. Lockett was tied for the most sacks in 2009 (5.5), and led the team in QB pressures with 13. LaMark Armour returns, but has always been plagued by injuries. This is a very fast group, and could drive Off. Coordinators crazy.
At LB: Johnathan Cornell, Joel Kight, and Allen Walker will QB the Defense. Returning 2 of their 3 starters, and other experienced guys such as D.T. Shackleford, greatly benefits the Rebels in 2010, and rounds out that strong front 7. Thanks to Houston Nutt's crazy signing days of the past 2 seasons, one of his players Mike Marry, is just now getting his shot to play. Marry could contribute as well.
At DB: Only 1 starter returns in the secondary, and that's Sr. Saftey Johnny Brown. Brown was 3rd on the team in tackles last season, with 81. He will be accompanied by either Fon Ingram or Damien Jackson, but it was Jackson that turned heads in the spring. At the CB positions, Jeremy McGee and Marcus Temple will get the nod. The competition at the Free Safety position, might result in a rotation of numerous players, but that's just one of the many questions when considering the Defensive backfield. Tons of youth and inexperience, could affect Def. Coordinator Tyrone Nix's comfort level when it comes to his blitzing schemes.
Special Teams:We mentioned WR Jess Grandy earlier, but where this kid could really shine is in the return game. Last season, he returned 2 kicks for Td's, and is an all out play maker. In the kicking game, gone is Joshua Shene, but PK Bryson Rose seems to be the most obvious replacement. P Tyler Campbell had an excellent Freshman season, averaging 43.9 yds per punt. Overall, a good group for this pivotal part of football.
Schedule: Jacksonville St, @ Tulane, Vandy, Fresno St, UK, @ Bama, @ Arky, Auburn, UL Laf, @ UT, @ LSU, MSU
My Thoughts: First off, is the Reb front 7 on D the best in the SEC? I don't think so. Top 5, I'd agree. There's no doubt in my mind that the D Line will be very good, but I still wonder just how good the LB core is. Not to mention, when you are as aggressive as Tyrone Nix is, you have to have the players in the secondary to cover when blitzing, and that young group could cost OM some big plays and big games. The Rebs' special teams group could swing a game or two, but so could the young mind and leg of Tyler Campbell. I feel strongly that Masoli will only temporarily take the wind out of the opposition's sails, IF, Nutt doesn't construct his Offense around Masoli's strengths, and somewhat away from the pro style. If Nutt uses this kid the way he was used at Oregon, then OM can possibly add another win or two-to what it appeared Stanley & Co. would have accomplished.
My Prediction: 7-5 or 8-4. OM and Masoli will benefit from one of the weakest out of conference schedules in the country (for the 3rd straight yr). I don't know if I have seen an easier first 5 games on any one's 2010 schedule, like that of OM's. But, the Rebs will find that the latter half of their season, will be nothing like the first. This where the rankings will begin to fall off, maybe Masoli loses some national attention, and when he also realizes that he's in the SEC. 3 losses in a row will deflate the Rebs: Bama-check, at Arkansas-check, and home vs Auburn-check. Bama's D, and Arkansas' and Auburn's offenses will be too much. At that point, OM will be 5-3, and after handling UL-L and a rebuilding UT, the 2 most pivotal games on the schedule arise. At Baton Rouge, and the Egg Bowl in Oxford vs MSU. It's at that point, that the country will find out what this 7-3 team is made of. I personally can't see LSU losing a 3rd straight time to OM, and after all, they'll be facing the West's hungriest coach in Les Miles. After a loss on the Bayou, the Egg Bowl will determine whether or not the Rebs finish with 7 or 8 wins. This year, I don't see the Egg being won by an underdog, but the team with the best record. Since I think State is going to finish somewhere in this ballpark, I'll refrain from picking this one straight up right now. The 2 schools might actually go back to deciding 'who' between the 2, gets the better bowl. Guess we'll have to wait and see.
One last thing to clear up on Masoli:Recently, a Masoli comment or paraphrase was used in numerous articles, even on the Ole Miss Blog, in order to make us think all these other schools wanted Masoli, even State. Here's that quote: "Masoli will report to Oxford on Friday. He said Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, West Virginia, Kansas State and UNLV also expressed interest, but he preferred Ole Miss, which has gone 9-4 and won the Cotton Bowl in each of the past two seasons." -I think we need to make one final thing clear, it's not that he 'had' offers from those schools, but it's because those other schools 'turned him down'-as to why he ended up in Oxford. At least I know La Tech and State did, so it's clear that he was limited in his choices. And I'm not so sure that it wasn't 'his' interest in those schools, rather than what Masoli claims was 'theirs' in him. And where he ended up, because of 'closed' doors, happened to be at OM, where they have had consecutive 9 win seasons and Cotton Bowl W's. I love how people who run out of options, get an open door, and then act like they had numerous doors open this whole time. If he lied to his former coaches and to the cops, I wouldn't doubt there's a little embellishment here. The kids a great talent, I hope his life is headed in the right direction, and so forth. I'm just protecting my school, because there was NO mention at all, of an offer from Mullen or MSU. And whether we were stocked at the QB position or not, and whether that fact had anything to do with the decision, I'm glad either way that State did not extend a hand. With that said, that will be my last post on the Masoli issue.
Your Predictions and Thoughts on OM? Does Nutt need to tweak the Offense to fit Masoli? How good is OM's D?
Chris Low has a video on the 3 new SEC Coaches. Link What new SEC Coach will have the most success?
LSU looks to prove doubters wrong. Link
UT's Dooley is 10 men short of the 85 roster limit. Link
That's all I got boys, not a lot of news so far. Anyone seen the UGA commercial for the 3-D TV's yet? It's with Harry Dog (the mascot) and a UGA fan, Hilarious! Couldn't find it on You Tube, must be new.
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