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Rebels Return to Spring Practice

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Ole Miss returned to the practice field after a week-long hiatus during spring break. The Rebels are now in the second half of spring football, culminating with the Grove Bowl on April 7.

"There may have been a couple of mistakes from the layoff, but the energy was good," head coach Matt Luke said of the team's return to the field. "I thought they were physical. They had good session with weights yesterday to kind of get back into the swing of things and I thought it was a good practice."

Luke was bullish on two positions in particular, the running backs and the linebackers, two spots the Rebels have holes to fill from departures from the 2017 team and also two positions with some of new faces that will need to contribute next season. He was pleased with how the linebackers have been playing downhill against the run and the consistency of their reads.

"I really like that they're taking on Coach Sumrall's personality and playing physical," Luke said. "I saw a couple of physical plays that I haven't been seeing. Them playing down hill against the run and being physical. Josh Clarke made a really good play blowing up a play in the hole. There are some really good things going on, but obviously a long way to go and plenty to improve on."

On the other side of the football - one of the positions the linebackers have been tasked with neutralizing - Luke had high praise for newcomer Scottie Phillips at running back before the team departed for spring break. He hasn't changed his tune since on the the number one junior college running back in the country.


"I was cautiously optimistic before they got there but now, Scottie broke another long run towards the end of practice. We are really really pleased with them," Luke said.

The Armini Linton project at running back took a small setback as he's been dealing with a hamstring injury. But Luke and the staff saw enough of the former defensive back to feel confident about keeping him on the offensive side of the football for the foreseeable future. Linton played running back in high school. While the concept isn't completely foreign, he's using the spring to learn the playbook and various blocking and running reads.


The Rebels return D'Vaughn Pennamon and Eric Swinney at this position, two guys who have game experience and a decent bit of SEC touches. Luke knows what he as in them. He wants to use spring ball to see what guys like Phillips and Isaiah Woullard bring to the table, as well as the newly-transformed Linton.

"They have to keep coming," Luke said. "They've made some mistakes but they keep coming along. Swinney has been solid. He knows what to do. We want to see some of those new guys."

Ole Miss has a number of guys banged up through offseason surgeries and the natural attrition that comes in the football offseason. It's allowing other guys to get more reps in practice as the Rebels attempt to build depth next fall. Tight end Octavious Cooley is a one player who has benefitted from increase practice time with Dawson Knox being sidelined with a foot injury.


"Looks like he has his weight in check and looks like he is in the best shape he has been in since he has been here," Luke said. "That has really helped him become more consistent by not just making one good play, but several in a row. We are really pleased with that."

Luke envisioned possibly playing Cooley and Knox at the same time next season.


"It gives us the flexibility to play some 12 personnel with he and Dawson out there at the same time. It is really exciting to see him playing the way he is," Luke said.

The same is true on the defensive line with Benito Jones and Qaadir Sheppard nursing injuries. None of the injuries will affect guys going into fall camp, so the staff is framing it as a positive in the sense that they can focus on getting younger players ready to contribute next fall.

"It's the same thing with Ross (Donelly) and Sincere (David)," Luke said. "They are getting more reps than they've ever gotten before and it's making them better. It will get us depth when Benito (Jones) and Qaadir (Sheppard) come back. It will just make us better."

A Closer Look: Defensive Line

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This is the sixth of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Top Performer: Breeland Speaks (27 solo tackles, 40 assisted tackles, 67 total tackles, 10 TFLs, two sacks), Marquis Haynes (27 solo tackles, 18 assisted tackles, 48 total tackles, 11 TFLs, 7.5 sacks, three forces fumbles)

Returning in 2018: Victor Evans (Sr., 3L), Markel Winters (Sr., 1L), Shawn Curtis (Jr., 2L), Amani Johnson (Fr., RS), Ryder Anderson (So., 1L), Qaadir Sheppard (Jr., 1L), Charles Wiley (So., 1L), Garrald McDowell (Sr., 3L), Josiah Coatney (Jr., 1L), Austrian Robinson (Jr., 2L), Ross Donelly (Sr., 3L), Sincere David (Fr., RS), Benito Jones (Jr., 2L), Jordan Hebert (Sr., 2L)

Newcomers in 2018: James Williams (Fr., Jackson, Miss.), Jalen Cunningham (Fr.,Odenville, Ala.), Hal Northern (Jr., Senatobia, Miss.), KD Hill (Fr., Eufaula,Ala.), Quinten Bivens (Fr., Waynesboro, Miss.)

Losing from 2017 Team: Breeland Speaks (NFL Draft), Marquis Haynes (Graduation), Herbert Moore (Graduation)

Looking back at 2017: The 2017 Ole Miss defensive line was the strongest part of a defense that struggled to stop the run early in the season, but improved dramatically down the stretch. Marquis Haynes and Breeland Speaks anchored this unit and were the Rebels' two best pass rushers. Junior college transfer Josiah Coatney had 65 tackles on the interior defensive line. The Rebels were deeper on the defensive line than they were on any position on the field. It got contributions from Ryder Anderson and Victor Evans on the outside at defensive end and Ross Donnelly and Austrian Robinson on the interior at defensive tackle.

Both Haynes and Speaks had big games in Ole Miss' memorable Egg Bowl win on Thanksgiving night, a fitting end to a productive season as well as the last game of their Ole Miss careers.

Looking ahead to 2018: On the surface, it would appear that Ole Miss has some holes to fill on the defensive line, particularly on the outside. The departure of Speaks and Haynes means the Rebels will have to find a way to replace 12.5 sacks and 112 tackles. That's quite a lot. They were two of the best players on the 2017 defense and replacing them will be tough. Victor Evans does return with a decent amount of experience, as he was a starter when healthy. He only played in five games in 2017. Ryder Anderson and Qaadir Sheppard -- who battled injuries for most of the season -- will see their roles increased dramatically next season. Markel Winters will also be in the mix as well. Anderson in particular showed promise last season and it was hard to gauge Sheppard's effectiveness due to him being injured. At least one of these names will need to become a formidable pass rusher for the Rebels next season.

The prognosis on the interior is a little better. Benito Jones is a former top-100 recruit that battled a shoulder injury for most of the season and his production was hindered as a result. Coatney, as mentioned earlier, was really good for the Rebels last year. Behind them is where Ole Miss will need to develop some depth. Sincere David redshirted a year ago as he tries to make the transition from offensive to defensive lines. Ross Donnelly and Austrian Robinson got some playing time last fall and will likely take on greater roles next season.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

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    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

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