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Hipp’s Tips: Spring Practice edition

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As spring practice begins today at 3:30 on the practice fields, here are five things to keep an eye on:

 

1. Replacing the tackles

The Rebels have to replace both offensive tackles as Bradley Sowell graduated and Bobby Massie left early for the NFL draft. In his spring practice press conference, Hugh Freeze said sophomore Aaron Morris and junior college transfer Pierce Burton were the two most gifted tackles on the team. Those two will be up front as practice begins but will be pushed by Emmanuel McCray and others. Freeze also had high praise for Jimel Judon, a former Ole Miss baseball player, who is now giving football a try.

2. Lack of depth at running back

With the departures of Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis, the Rebels find themselves very thin at the running back position. Junior Jeff Scott returns, but his reps will have to be watched during the spring to prevent injuries. Senior Devin Thomas will be counted upon to step up and handle a larger amount of reps, as will sophomore Nick Parker, who lost 20 pounds over the offseason, according to Freeze. Ole Miss will have to be very careful and limit how much tackling the running backs can handle.

3. Will someone break away from the pack in the quarterback battle?

Junior college transfer Bo Wallace is thought to have the inside track at the starting job because of his familiarity with Freeze and his playbook, but how much a year on the scout team at Arkansas State helped him is up for debate. Seniors Zack Stoudt and Randall Mackey both will be feeling a sense of urgency to produce early, as this is their last year of college eligibility. Stoudt played well when the Rebels were able to block for him, so he could be one that surprises. Junior Barry Brunetti started down the stretch last season but will need to impress in order to not get lost in the quarterback shuffle.

4. Freeze’s offense

Much of the buzz around Freeze is because of the highly successful, wide-open, spread offense he is bringing to Oxford. The Rebels brought in a ton of wide receivers last year, and Donte Moncrief, Nickolas Brassell, Tobias Singleton, Collins Moore and Josh Pinkston all should find plenty of reps available to them in their respective second seasons in Oxford. 

Those guys will battle veterans like junior Ja-Mes Logan for reps. A new coaching staff also gives fellow sophomore Vince Sanders a clean slate after underachieving so far in his Ole Miss career. It should be fascinating to watch and see who takes off running in Freeze’s fast-paced system.

5. Fixing the pass rush

In his pre-spring press conference, Freeze was very concerned about the lack of a consistent pass rush from the Rebels’ front four, especially their defensive ends. With Kentrell Lockett gone, now is the time for players like Gerald Rivers, Jason Jones, Carlos Thompson, C.J. Johnson and others to step up and give Freeze the legitimate pass rusher he’s looking for. Freeze said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack has watched every game, and both he and Freeze are confident in defensive line coach Chris Kiffin and the players’ defensive line technique.