SEC 2009 // Ole Miss Has a Quarterback, But Can They Protect Him?

You know, it's getting kind of old to have to write this in every depth chart post, so let's go ahead and get it out there. Like seemingly every other team in the SEC, Ole Miss has a huge question mark under cente --

Wait a minute! We have a team with a quarterback! A proven, true blue quarterback!

Yes, Jevan Snead is one of just two SEC quarterbacks who have, you know, actually started for an entire season and looked pretty good doing it.

Comp

Att

Comp %

Yds

TDs

INTs

Rating

Jevan Snead, 2008

184

327

56.3

2,762

26

13

145.51

That's not to say that the Rebels have nothing to worry about on their depth chart; far from it. The most pressing issue is the loss of great offensive lineman and New York Times bestseller subject Michael Oher, whose superb blind-side protection was part of the reason Snead was able to put up those numbers. Snead was sacked an average of just more than 1.5 times a game last year, 20 total, good for 4th in the SEC and 36th in the nation.

Stepping into Oher's rather large shoes, at least for now, is Bradley Sowell. David Brandt lays out the huge responsibility that Sowell now assumes.

Sowell's got a big task on his hands because one bad play could change the season. ... Behind Sowell, there aren't a whole lot of quality options. The Rebels could move veteran Reid Neely from guard to tackle, but Neely's game is much better suited for guard. Incoming freshman Bobby Massie has a lot of hype, but it's hard to envision Ole Miss handing him the keys to left tackle after being on campus for five weeks. So realistically, it's Sowell or bust.

There are some other nice players along the o-line -- such as RT John Jerry -- but Oher will still be missed. Sowell's job is likely to make sure he's not missed too much.

The Rebels also lose Mike Wallace, their top wide receiver in terms of yardage (784) from 2008, but get back the two with the most catches -- Shay Hodge, who also led the team with 8 TDs, and all-purpose player Dexter McCluster; both had 44 grabs last year.

Sophomore Brandon Bolden takes will be the top running back -- though McCluster will get his share of touches in the running game -- after surprising many with a strong 2008 (98 carries, 542 yards, 5 TDs). Cordera Eason is listed as the backup; we're talking about a senior with 647 yards and three scores last year on 140 carries.

There are two key questions along the defensive line: How will Lawon Scott (or maybe Jerrell Powe) do filling in for Peria Jerry (18 TFL, including seven sacks), and how much will Greg Hardy be slowed down by his reaggravated foot injury? Last year, Hardy led the team with 8.5 sacks, a performance he will likely need to repeat for Ole Miss to contend.

The starting linebacking corps is either solid and experienced (Jonathan Cornell, Allen Walker) or at least promising (Patrick Trahan). FS Kendrick Lewis (4 INTs, 6 passes broken up last year) and cornerbacks Cassius Vaughn (3, 4) and Marshay Green (2, 6) form the backbone of a solid secondary -- at least for the starting group.

Whatever questions might be sprinkled in along the offensive line and some of the second-stringers, Ole Miss doesn't have to worry about who's receiving the signals. That puts them light-years ahead of most SEC teams heading into camp.

--

MONDAY: Ole Miss Aspires to Old Heights
TUESDAY: Rebels Roll Call
WEDNESDAY: Gridiron U Preview
LATER TODAY: Predictions
FRIDAY: Final Thoughs and Feedback

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