Ole Miss football has been in a bad place during the last few seasons, but 2019 could become the turning point, and the new offensive and defensive coordinators could be the fulcrum for that turn.
Here’s a message for Ole Miss football fans. Forget about the past three years. Forget about Hugh Freeze. Forget about last year’s 5-7 record. More importantly, forget about the lopsided loss to Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl.
2019 is a different season, and a chance to sweep all the remnants of Freeze out the door. The feeling by many is Matt Luke has now made this program his own and they’re ready to start showing out.
The good news? Despite losing a lot of names to graduation and the NFL Draft, there’s talent ready to step in. The Rebels hauled in a nice recruiting class, and they have some exciting young players taking the field.
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The even better news? There’s a fresh coaching staff with two new coordinators ready to lead them.
Offensively, Ole Miss has a lot of talent to replace; quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, wide receivers A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge, tight end Dawson Knox, and offensive linemen Greg Little, Sean Rawlings, and Javon Patterson have all moved on from Oxford.
Matt Corrall is the projected starter at quarterback, and he’ll be pushed by the incoming young guns, especially Grant Tisdale. Elijah Moore, Braylon Sanders, Miles Battle should all have coming out seasons for the Rebels at wide receiver, and there’s an entire stable of running backs for Corrall to lean upon.
All of this offense will be under the direction of new offensive coordinator, Rich Rodriguez, who has proven he does have a mind for creativity on the offensive side of the ball. A faster pace, less predictable play-calling and less dependency on the deep ball will help the Rebels move with the times.
On the other side of the ball, new defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre will have his hands full. The good news for Mac is that the majority of the defense from 2018 is returning to play this year. The bad news is that defense gave up 36.2 points per game last year.
But sometimes fresh voices and ideas can make all the difference in the world. In 2013 under Todd Grantham, Georgia finished 79th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up 29 points per game. When current Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt took over the following year, that number plummetted to 20.7 points per game, good for 16th in the nation, with essentially the same roster Grantham had to work with.
So all is not lost for the formerly ferocious Landshark Defense.
More importantly, Matt Luke went out and found quality coaches to fill out his staff; guys he knew would come in and make some sweeping changes and inject some life into a program muddling through the Mississippi bogs.
The schedule isn’t easy (then again, no SEC schedule ever is, especially in the West), but Ole Miss has a shot at shaking things up. Just like the Rebels, every other school in the SEC West has talent to replace, and there’s no one in the division who looks to be bulletproof right now.
It’s probably way out of line to even hint at Ole Miss making a run at the SEC Championship Game. But, then again, why not? It’s going to be a completely different looking team when they take the field in 2019.