Matt Luke is by all accounts an incredibly well-liked guy, but his tenure at Ole Miss hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts, with an 11-13 record over his first two seasons, a far cry from the highs the Rebels reached under Hugh Freeze. Luke has made some changes to turn things around though, bringing in former Arizona/Michigan/West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez to take over the offensive coordinator role, and former Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre to take over the defense. Those are two awesome coordinator hires that have won coach of the year in a major conference within the past half-decade.
Ole Miss wasn’t bad last year (#50) but in the brutal SEC West that isn’t going to cut it. We’ll see if the staff changes can turn things around.
Jordan Ta’amu, someone who I thought was one of the most underrated QBs in the country last year, has graduated, but Ole Miss has a new mobile QB with a big arm to take over in high four-star freshman Matt Corral. Depending on a freshman QB is risky business, but we’ve seen Alabama and Clemson do it to incredible success in recent years, so its not impossible.
Adding to the mobile Corral in the run game are returning backs Scottie Phillips (6.1 yards per carry) and Isaiah Woullard (5.1 as a true freshman). Five-star freshman Jerrion Ealy also joins the running back room.
The receiving corps does get raided as the top three are gone along with TE Dawson Knox. Highly touted sophomore Elijah Moore returns after showing flashes last year, but guys like deep threat Braylon Sanders or JUCO transfer Dontario Drummond will have to step up into bigger roles.
On the line, just two starters are back, and with just three starters returning overall and the loss of an awesome QB, I think the offense takes a step back even if Corral shows out.
The Rebels were not good on defense last year, but ten starters return, and there is talent on this team. OLB Qaadir Sheppard had 1.5 sacks and 8.5 TFL, and Benito Jones and Josiah Coatney combined for four more sacks and nine more TFL on the interior.
The team does add a few new faces, most notably LB Sam Williams, the #8 overall JUCO player of this year’s class. They add another JUCO transfer in safety Jonathan Haynes, who has gotten rave reviews in spring ball this year.
After this defense really was torn up last year I expect MacIntyre to hit the reset button and really try out some new things, which will probably only be for the best. This will be a much more experienced group, and with MacIntyre at the helm, I think they improve.
In the brutal SEC West, it feels tough to see a bowl bid this year, although certainly not out of the question. The defense will be much more experienced but the offense much less so. I expect the Rebels to be favored in five games this year, so take care of business in those and pull one upset and you’ll be golden, but miss a bowl again and Matt Luke may find himself on the hot seat.
|Date||Opponent||OPp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|14-Sep||southeast louisiana state||nr||n/a|
|9-nov||new mexico state||125||21.2|
|28-Nov||at mississippi state||13||-11.4|
Average Projected Record: 5.4 wins, 6.6 losses (2.5 wins, 5.5 losses)