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    Ole Miss Rebels Spring Practice Preview: 3 Storylines To Watch

    Ole Miss Rebels spring practice preview for 2017. Here are three storylines to watch when the Rebels hit the field on February 28.

    February 27, 2017

    Ole Miss Rebels spring practice preview for 2017. Here are three storylines to watch when the Rebels hit the field on February 28.

    It was a rough 2016 season on the field for Ole Miss and head coach Hugh Freeze, as the Rebels stumbled to a 5-7 overall record, just 2-6 in the SEC, and missed a bowl game appearance for the first time since 2011.

    Off the field, things are even worse, as Ole Miss has self-imposed a postseason ban for this upcoming season in response to the 21 violations the NCAA reported in its Notice of Allegations, with Freeze being charged with violating the head coach responsibility legislation.

    The Rebels will try and put both last season and the NCAA problems aside as they begin spring practice on Feb. 28. Here are three storylines to follow leading up to the Grove Bowl on April 8.

    Ole Miss Rebels Spring Practice Storylines

    1. New Coordinator, Part I

    Dan Werner is out, and Phil Longo is in at offensive coordinator for the Rebels, which means a new philosophy – Longo does not run a lot of run-pass option plays – and new lingo for the Ole Miss offense. Longo brings a combination of an air raid passing attack while also depending on a downfield run game.

    What will matter most for both Longo’s success and the Rebels as a whole is the development of quarterback Shae Patterson, who torched his redshirt last season after starting quarterback Chad Kelly suffered a season-ending injury. In three games, Patterson threw for 880 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions while rushing for 169 more yards.

    Needless to say, Patterson is the present and future for the Rebels at quarterback. He must now learn a second offensive system in as many years, and how he and Longo gel during the month-long spring drills – not to mention this summer and fall – will go a long way in determining the success of the Ole Miss offense this fall.

    2. New Coordinator, Part II

    The defense faces the same situation as the offense: a brand new coordinator in Wesley McGriff and a new formation, changing from a 4-2-5 to a 4-3 front.

    A lot of players, including defensive end Marquis Haynes, return, so experience is not a problem. However, the Rebels were less than mediocre on that side of the ball last year, finishing No. 111 in total defense by allowing 461.3 yards per game.

    Stopping the run should be of importance for McGriff’s, as the Rebels were run over by the opposition all season long. The return of linebacker DeMarquis Gates will help, but other players such as Benito Jones and Victor Evans must step up, and the introduction of new coaches at both the linebacker (Bradley Dale Peveto) and defensive end (Freddie Roach) positions will have the Rebels focused on tackling the running back and getting off blocks.

    3. The Mood Surrounding Program

    The players and coaches will all say the same thing leading up to practice: no, they are not distracted by the NCAA violations and it won’t be a nuisance preparing for the upcoming season. Still, the clouds hanging over the program will have some effect on each individual.

    Freeze’s job is intact as of right now, but how long that is the case will be seen.

    There is also the fact of the postseason ban, which means that no matter what the Rebels accomplish on the field, the only reward will be a pat on the back. No trophies to play for. No chance at the program’s first trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. Nothing to play for except pride.

    Will the Rebels rally around that, or will it become a detriment to the program?

    MORE: SEC Football Predictions, Storylines For 2017 Season


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