So a year later, the same Ole Miss that looked like a bunch of overmatched high-schoolers against the Tigers is a bowl team that pulled in a miraculous top-10 recruiting class. Are things Freezing over in Oxford? We asked The Ghost of Jay Cutler from Red Cup Rebellion to give us the vibe for spring football.
1. A bowl win followed by the best signing day in Ole Miss history, surely the vibe up there has to be incredibly positive this spring, yes?
Oh yes, quite positive, and you nailed the reasons why. Beating a rival to earn bowl eligibility, turning that bowl eligibility to a convincing win over Pitt (I know, Big East and all), and then having that momentum translate into the best recruiting class in modern Ole Miss history means that Rebel fans are downright schoolgirlish in their football excitement. Of course a lot of this excitement should be tempered, and likely will be once the season rolls around. But for now it's tough for the lot of us to not be thrilled.
2. Speaking of said recruiting class, are there any members on campus early and working this spring?
There are a few, most notably d-tackle Lavon Hooks, running back Mark Dodson Jr., and tight end Christian Morgan. Morgan had to have his knee scoped for a meniscus tear recently, but he should be ready to contribute this fall. Dodson has shown to be every bit as capable as his recruiting hype suggested he would be (he was a four star guy and one of the top prospects in Tennessee) and should see some action out of the backfield this fall. Hooks, who was rated the No. 1 overall junior college prospect by 247 Sports, is big, strong, and mean, but still needs to take those raw attributes and become a more polished, complete defensive lineman. Still, he could become a solid starter by the season opener.
3. I've heard Bo Wallace is down with a shoulder injury. How serious is it, and will it affect his season prep going forward?
Bo played much of last season with a badly separated shoulder, and went under the knife to have it repaired shortly after the Compass Bowl win. He still has not been cleared to throw or take hits, so he has spent the Spring rehabbing and staying in shape. For much of the spring practices, he would stretch and run through drills with the team short of actually throwing a football forward. He should be ready to throw by Summer, but it is never a good thing when your quarterback misses spring practice. We can only hope that he will be able to rehab well enough to be back to something near 100% for fall practice.
4. Any other surprises or disappointments through spring drills so far?
I'll give you a surprise and a disappointment. Linebacker D.T. Shackelford is returning from two knee surgeries which have kept him off of the field since the 2010 season, so it is surprising to a lot of us to see him actually in the mix at linebacker this spring. He's big and smart, so if his knee holds up he should be able to contribute in the linebacker rotation. The biggest disappointment overall has been the offensive line. The Rebels have some talented guys up front, but so many of them are injured that we've gotten a glimpse this spring at just how thin the unit is. The first string and a few of the second string guys are SEC quality, but after that it's a bit of a crapshoot. Hopefully the guys missing this spring with injuries can be healthy this fall because we will definitely need them.
5. Finally, with all this momentum, how have expectations adjusted for the Rebels this Fall? The schedule seems a bit tougher early on.
Pretty much every Ole Miss fan I have spoken to this offseason expects improvement from last year to this year. We won 7 games after our bowl win, so a 7- or 8-win regular season is what a lot of fans are expecting. Considering that, they've definitely adjusted a lot in just one calendar year. The schedule though is really tough, and it wouldn't surprise me to see a much improved Rebel team that doesn't improve much in the wins column.