COLUMN: August nears, and optimism reigns. College football is never more popular in the drowsiest of the summer months, if only because fans starved for the game begin hoping and explaining away potential problems about their team with a litany of best case scenarios.
Optimism is less than guarded in Oxford, and history tells us that pride around Rebel football usually comes before a fall. In no way is 2013 Ole Miss as much of the mark as 2009 (no one’s talking national titles, thank the Lord), but here’s a few holes around this team fans have frequently filled with hope this offseason:
The OL will get injured
Hugh Freeze has said it so many times this offseason that no one’s listening anymore, but it’s worth repeating: Ole Miss escaped an entire football season starting the same five offensive linemen in every game.
The odds of that happening twice are astronomical. It’s nothing more than a fact of the game, and the reality of shallow depth at the position is still real. Austin Golson and Laremy Tunsil could allow for a more lenient rotation, but if senior tackles Pierce Burton and Emmanuel McCray get injured, look out.
The running game will struggle early on
Without any offensive coach admitting as much, there has to be some concern for Bo Wallace’s health, specifically his surgically repaired shoulder. It’s fair to assume that could keep Wallace from running the read option as much, at least early, and thus force the Rebels to lean on Jeff Scott and a cast of works in progress in the backfield.
Scott alone can’t sustain this offense. Wallace said at SEC Media Days that he’s noticed a step forward from both Jaylen Walton and I’Tavius Mathers in the offseason, but the fact remains that no tailback other than Scott has shown a SEC level of pedigree on the field.
Freshman players will look like freshmen players
Probably the most common assumption from Rebel fans this offseason is that highly touted recruits like Robert Nkemdiche and Laquon Treadwell will be instant all-SEC level contributors.
No one wants to hear this, but that’s just not how these things happen. Rebel fans have little perspective on the timeframe of how a top recruiting class impacts a program because their program has never landed one the caliber of 2013. Look to top SEC outfits for comparison — at places like Alabama, Georgia and LSU, most four and five star signees arrive on campus and play behind current all-conference starters, maturing slowly before seeing significant time after a year or two.
Last year’s SEC wins will all be tougher to repeat
Ole Miss ended its increasingly embarrassing 0-for-conference play streak thanks to two imploding programs, Arkansas and Auburn, and outgunning rival Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl.
It’s worth repeating that the Tiger and Razorback squads the Rebels beat in 2012 were among those respective programs’ worst teams in history. Both schools have new, better head coaches and both will exceed their ‘12 win totals this year (and if I had to make a guess, I’d say Auburn could be bowling at 6 or 7 wins).
Mississippi State might not be drastically different in 2013, but Ole Miss play the Bulldogs in Starkville, where they haven’t won in 10 years, and on national television. Whatever your disaster fantasy is for MSU this season, know that the worse the Bulldogs are come Egg Bowl time, the more fearless they’ll be playing Ole Miss.
Nick Brassell won’t play football at OM ever again
Not gonna happen. Sorry. It’s advisable you simply forget about that NFL-caliber cover corner ability, the special teams playmaking and the luxury Snoop’s inclusion would give defensive coordinator Dave Wommack to spread talent around in the secondary.
The hows and whys and what ifs of Nick Brassell are a story we can tell another time, but the reality is that the hole dug by Brassell himself — not Houston Nutt, not Jamal Mosley, not South Panola — is too deep to climb out of. (July 30, 2013, Page 6)