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Spring Football Five Things: Ole Miss

Talkin' bout the Rebels with Ghost of Jay Cutler at Red Cup Rebellion.

1. The quarterback numbers from Ole Miss' spring game looked well...frankly...kind of like LSU's from last year. Is that a concern? Is Chad Kelly the answer, or would the Rebels be better off working with somebody with more time in the system?

Depending on what you want to observe, spring games can either be incredibly valuable or absolutely worthless. Regarding what I want to see out of the Ole Miss quarterbacks, I'll stick with the latter. Yeah, no quarterback was particularly consistent, but injuries on the offensive line and at receiver didn't do them any favors. On top of that, Chad Kelly clearly needs some more time working with the Ole Miss coaches and receivers to work on understanding plays and developing better timing with his execution.

That non-answer aside, I think that there are legitimate concerns that Ole Miss fans all share with regards to the Ole Miss quarterbacks. Even though his bad decision making caused a lot of headaches for Rebel fans, Bo Wallace was most certainly a guy who knew the offense well and never mailed it in effort-wise. If any of the three quarterbacks the Ole Miss roster can get that part of his game down, he should be a solid starter. If I had to guess who that starter would be, I'd say Chad Kelly with almost no hesitation. He most definitely has the skillset and pedigree to be good; he just needs to become more familiar with the Ole Miss offense and stop threatening to shoot people with phantom assault rifles.

2. How is Laquon Treadwell doing coming off of that horrible injury? Is he on track to be ready for the start of the season?

During the week of the spring game, Treadwell said he was about 80 percent recovered. He did go through spring non-contact drills and even dressed out for the Grove Bowl, but didn't play due to precaution (and, let's be real, he doesn't need spring practice). He should be 100 percent by the end of the Summer, something which will immediately make the Ole Miss offense much more formidable.

3. Have any other playmakers emerged, such as in the running game?

In the spring, a lot of guys make plays that otherwise wouldn't because, well, spring football. But if there's anybody that stuck out who could have a legitimate impact this fall, particularly in the running game, it's Akeem Judd. He was redshirted last season with turf toe, but showed a lot of promise as a physical runner this spring. Jordan Wilkins should also be a better offensive weapon out of the backfield this season. He was fairly inconsistent last year, but came along strong towards the end of the season, playing particularly well in the Egg Bowl. He also ran physically and did a good job of finding open space during the Grove Bowl.

4. Ole Miss loss a number of tremendous veteran playmakers on defense. Is that a concern, or do you think the highly recruited newbies will step in fine?

Ole Miss did lose several defensive starters - most notably unanimous all-American Senquez Golson at cornerback, Cody Prewitt at safety, and D.T. Shackelford at middle linebacker - but the Rebels do return a lot of very valuable contributors as well. Most notable among the returners are defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, safety Tony Conner, defensive end Marquis Haynes, safety Mike Hilton, and linebacker C.J. Johnson. Johnson's a bit of an interesting case, because he has played defensive end for the past few years, but is moving back to the position he was originally recruited to play. Hopefully his size and experience will translate to success at middle linebacker. Also technically returning is Tee Shepard, even though he didn't play a single snap of football last year. He was recruited as the top junior college cornerback two years ago and was penciled in as one of Ole Miss' starting cornerbacks before tearing a tendon in his toe during fall drills. He's recovered now, and is looking every bit like a defensive back who is ready to start in the SEC.

There are, of course, a few newcomers to watch for. Tony Bridges at cornerback (himself the top junior college cornerback last year, meaning that Ole Miss has signed the top junior college corner for two straight years) comes to mind, as do D.J. Jones and Breeland Speaks at defensive tackle. Jones is another junior college 'croot, and Speaks is coming off of a redshirt year that saw him put on some good weight.

5. Last season seemed like a dream for the Rebels before a bit of a whimper at the end. What are reasonable expectations for 2015 with Hugh Freeze in year four?

I think the reasonable expectations are for Ole Miss to maintain momentum and finish the 2015 season as a more consistent team. The Rebels were a pretty talented team last season, but didn't have the depth to survive the inevitable injuries and fatigue of SEC play. This team should be deeper in a few key areas, particularly on the offensive line and at receiver. There's potential for Ole Miss to, again, play like a top-10 team, even though they're a few injuries away from being a middling SEC squad. All of that considered, 8 or 9 regular season wins is a reasonable expectation. If that means going 4-4 in a very difficult conference, then so be it. A lot of people won't like it, but with the conference having the parity it does now I think it's a bit much to expect much more and consider such expectations as reasonable.