How do you judge a roster for a team just coming off a disastrous season? Is a team better for getting rid of some of the players that helped lead to the disappointment, or worse for losing what few players had the experience necessary to make an impact? Maybe you just guess some, which seems to be what the Ole Miss coaches are doing in relation to at least one position.
BIGGEST RETURN | RB Brandon Bolden
With the uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position, and with Houston Nutt still the head coach, the running game is going to be an important part of the game plan for the Rebels this year. All the better that they have Bolden, who had 976 yards rushing and 14 TDs among his 1,320 all-purpose yards and 17 total TDs. Perhaps most importantly, it's hard to see Ole Miss having a solid year if Bolden doesn't.
BIGGEST LOSS | LB Jonathan Cornell
The simple truth about a 4-8 team is that it's hard to single out someone that the team is truly going to miss. Cornell, though, is something the defense can hardly afford to lose: Someone who rang up a lot of tackles in 2011. A team-leading 80 tackles, to be precise, with 14 of those coming behind the line of scrimmage, including 4.5 in the form of sacks. The Rebels could very well find someone to replace Cornell, but they would probably be better off if they didn't have to.
BREAKTHROUGH POSSIBILITY | QB Barry Brunetti
Who knows what was going through Nutt's head when he essentially announced that Brunetti is now the front-runner in the Oxford quarterback derby, but his track record leaves us with no reason to doubt that he just might do it. Which makes the job of figuring out in which direction this team is headed just as difficult as if Brunetti never set foot on campus.
After all, Brunetti has attempted just nine passes in college -- completing only four of them. That's fewer passes than Jevan Snead had attempted, and by far fewer than Jeremiah Masoli. So neither Houston Nutt nor anyone else really knows what the Rebels would be getting from Brunetti -- just that it's better than what Nutt thinks he would get from anyone else.