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Ole Miss football was one of the worst programs in the SEC in 2018. The Rebs posted a sub .500 record for the second time in three seasons, of which both were 5-7 seasons. Despite this, there is a rejuvenated energy around the program for 2019.
The Rebs brought in some fresh, yet experienced, faces to their coaching staff. Head Coach Matt Luke will be surrounded by former University of Arizona HC turned Offensive Coordinator Rich Rodriguez. While former University of Colorado HC Mike MacIntyre will be the Rebs new defensive coordinator. Both coaches have plenty of experience, while at Arizona Rich Rodriguez posted a 43-35 record. Mike MacIntyre even has nfl experience. Both, the Rebs hope, will be calming influences for third year Head Coach Matt Luke.
Other coaching hires the Rebs made include Tight Ends coach Calvin Magee, who was a part of Rodriguezs’ staff at the University of West Virginia. The Rebs also hired two experienced Linebacker coaches, Tyrone Nix and Jeff Koonz.
So that’s the Rebs off-season. What will they do in 2019? While more moderate expectations are certainly out there, it is possible that Ole Miss can exceed those expectations, the new energy surrounding the program can certainly help them do this. This will certainly be a huge boost for the fans of Ole Miss.
The Rebs new look offense will be led by redshirt freshman Quarterback Matt Corral, and one of his main threats will be experienced Running back Scottie Phillips. The Rebs offense will also likely feature all-purpose backs Tylan Knight and highly touted prospect Jerrion Ealy.
On the outside, the Rebs receiving core features Braylon Sanders, Elijah Moore, and Miles Sanders amongst a group of freshman and JUCO transfers. Elijah Moore leads the largely unkown receiving core coming back to Oxford. Moore had 398 receiving yards, while Braylon Sanders had just 271. JUCO transfer Dontario Drummond had 857 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns for East Mississippi Community College. The Rebs also return a more than favorable amount of offensive lineman, which in the SEC will be helpful for a Quartback in his first season.
Offense though has not been the issue for Ole Miss, and not many expect it to be this season. The area where major improvement is needed is defense. The Rebels have placed 110th and 121st the past two seasons in total defense, averaging 471.5 yards per game allowed over those two seasons. Many are hoping that Mike MacIntyre can turn that around. The Rebs will be a mix of returning faces and new faces. Highlighting the returning faces are Qaadir Sheppard and MoMo Sanogo. Sheppard had 48 tackles last season, and Sonogo had 112 tackles. Being added into that mix will be juco transfer Sam Williams, who led the NJCAA in sacks with 17.5 and was named the NJCAA Defensive Player of the Year. Also coming on to the Ole Miss defense is Lakia Henry, who was third in the NJCAA with 110 tackles. The Rebs have will also have a mixed secondary.
The Rebels don’t have the easiest schedule, nor do they have the hardest. The Rebs will start play August 31st traveling to Memphis, followed up by early SEC play vs Arkansas. Weeks three and four will see the Rebs host non-conference opponents Southeastern Louisiana and Cal. The Rebs have easily a 4-0 start to their schedule. After a trip to Alabama, the Rebs will host Vanderbilt. If the Rebs can reverse last seasons result vs the Commodores, they can easily start the season off at 5-1. The path to an eight win season will start September 12th when the Rebs play in a rare SEC matchup visiting the Missouri Tigers. If Ole Miss can put together a complete game, they’ll be off to a 6-1 start. It would be a critical win, considering the next three weeks will feature Texas A&M, a BYE week, and Auburn. Win number seven should come in week 11, when Ole Miss hosts New Mexico State in its fourth and final non-conference game. The Rebs will face LSU week 12, followed up by the Egg Bowl in week 13. Just like Missouri, if Ole Miss can put together a complete game then there is no reason why Ole Miss can’t beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs. That would be their eighth win on the season.
Will the Rebs be able to pull off the redemption season? Only time will tell, but it’s certainly possible. 4-0 in the non-conference is more than achievable. As previously mentioned, with two complete games, 4-4 in the SEC is achievable too. However things turn out, the Ole Miss program and fans want hope and to win after a rocky past few seasons in Oxford.