With a good deal of help from Year2.
By at least one measure, Ole Miss heads into 2010 with one of the least experienced rosters in the SEC. According to Phil Steele, only one team (Tennessee) has fewer returning starters than Ole Miss, and only one other (Alabama!) ties the Rebels with 10. Most of the departures are on offense (Jevan Snead, Dexter McCluster, Shay Hodge are some of the seven players gone) -- but unlike Alabama, neither side of the ball was really spared in the exodus.
THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY
Let's just say "the skill positions" and be done with it. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. The top rusher from 2009 is gone, the top two receivers aren't on the team and the quarterback -- the, um, somewhat erratic Snead -- is gone. In all, the Rebels lose: 58.8 percent of their rushing yardage and 54.5 percent of rushing TDs; 62.8 percent of their receiving yardage and 68.2 percent of their receiving TDs; and 92.5 percent of their passing yardage and 90.9 percent of their passing scores. (Of course, they also lose 95.2 percent of their interceptions, so ... ) And focusing only on the skill positions would also miss the loss of three fifths of the offensive line.
There's not quite as much attrition on the defensive side, but there's still some. The biggest loss is probably Patrick Trahan (69 tackles, 12 for loss, 5 sacks, 2 INTs, 2 forced fumbles), though Kendrick Lewis's team-leading 84 tackles, 10 broken-up passes and 2 INTs will also be dearly missed. In all, nine of the 13 interceptions for Ole Miss last year were caught by defenders who won't be there this year. But as the side that "only" loses five starters, it will up for the defense to try to keep the team headed in the right direction.
THE FEW WHO DO RETURN
Brandon Bolden will take over as RB, with 614 yards and 4 TDs rushing and 209 yards and 1 TD receiving. And while Markeith Summers had more receiving yards last year, Bolden was the leader in number of receptions with 20. Summers is the only projected "returning starter" -- depending on how you want to define the term, of course -- who caught or carried the ball last year -- 394 yards and 4 TDs receiving. (His only rush was for a loss of five.)
Again, things are better on defense. Defensive linemen Kentrell Lockett and Jerrell Powe and linebacker Jonathan Cornell bring back a combined 30 tackles for loss and 8.5 sack, not to mention 152 of Ole Miss' 838 total stops. Joining Cornell in the linebacking corps will be Allen Walker, who had 51 tackles, five for loss, along with five broken up passes, in 2009. Johnny Brown will anchor the secondary after having 81 tackles, five pass broken up and a pick last season.
THE OTHERS WHO HAVE TO LEAD THE WAY
The headliner of the new faces is always going to be a quarterback -- in this case Nathan Stanley, who completed 47.8 percent of his 23 attempts and had the same TD-to-INT ratio as Snead, though in fairness he had just one of each. But Stanley and Summers will need a second receiver to step up -- perhaps four- or five-star Patrick Patterson, if he can rebound from his spring suspension and snag a starting job. If they keep their post-spring spots on the depth chart, A.J. Hawkins, Rishaw Johnson and Alex Washington will have to help along the offensive line.
On defense, the front seven should be fine. But the secondary will need to mature quickly; the three likely starters aside from Brown had four starts at Ole Miss in 2009, though Marcus Temple and Jeremy McGee played in each game for the Rebels last year and four-star transfer Damien Jackson played in nine games at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College last year.