1. Heading into the season, who do you expect to be this year’s breakout player and why?
Matt Sigler (@SigNewton_2): I think this season’s breakout player will be running back Kailo Moore. Although he is just a freshman, I think his game is so versatile that he could be seen doing just about anything on the field. I expect him to be dangerous in the return game and have a steady role offensively out of the backfield. If used correctly on offensive, his speed will be a huge factor.
John Luke McCord (@JLgrindin): I feel like sophomore safety Chief Brown will be a guy that really makes a name for himself this season. Since the spring defensive coordinator Dave Wommack has referred to him as a third starter and a guy that would get reps equal to sophomore Trae Elston and junior Cody Prewitt. He has made the best of those reps and worked his way into an important role after failing to do so last season.
David Collier (@DavidLCollier): I think junior defensive end Carlos Thompson will finally make an impact after redshirting last season, but with a loaded depth chart there, his opportunities will be limited. However, this year’s breakout player will be junior linebacker Keith Lewis. He’s played in every game of his career, but this will be the year he takes off. Good spring and fall camp will propel him into a big year.
2. Bo Wallace had offseason shoulder surgery. What should expectations be for him this year?
Sigler: Of course having a surgery is going to have an effect, but I don’t think expectations for Wallace have that much change. He knows just how tough this league is and from what I’ve heard, he has set some lofty goals for himself and the team. Therefore, expectations for Wallace should be as good or even better than last year. However, I do anticipate him to potentially start off a little slow.
McCord: Expectations should be high for Bo. He threw a lot of touchdowns, but also a lot of picks last season. I would look for him to be more efficient this season, potentially more productive as well with an improved offensive line and receiver corps.
Collier: Early on, expectations should be tempered just because of the shoulder. Everyone seems to think he is fine, but how will he react after getting that first hit? I think he’ll be fine, but once I see that, I’ll know for sure. Anyone heading into their second year as an SEC quarterback should take a step forward, and for Wallace, that has to be in decision making. Ole Miss goes as Wallace goes.
3. How big of an impact can the freshmen make tonight?
Sigler: I think they can make a big time impact. If you look at the freshmen expected to play tonight, how could you not expect some plays? Defensive end Robert Nkemdiche will finally be able to show why he was the unanimous choice for top prospect in the country, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell will provide another target besides junior wideout Donte Moncrief, and like I said earlier, Kailo Moore will do something special. I also expect to see something from offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil if the Rebels are able to pull away at some point.
McCord: The freshmen can make a big impact tonight once they shake off the jitters early. I expect defensive end Robert Nkemdiche to make the most of his start and create some excitement. I expect running back Kailo Moore to impact the special teams unit. I also expect wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and tight end Evan Engram to catch a few passes. Tony Conner could have an impact at the huskie spot as well.
Collier: I expect the freshmen to make a big impact. They may not make all the huge plays, but as a collective group, they’ll will make an impact. Defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and huskie Tony Conner will make the biggest contribution on defense, while wideout Laquon Treadwell will have opportunities to make plays when Vandy focuses on junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief.
4. What does Ole Miss have to do to get the win over Vanderbilt?
Sigler: To beat Vanderbilt, Ole Miss has to take care of the football and limit turnovers. Turnovers will always kill a team and will definitely do so tonight if they become a problem. I also believe the team has to stay focused. This is a huge opening game, an SEC game on top of that, and for this team to succeed, they cannot get caught up in the madness of opening the season and have to play smart and within themselves.
McCord: Ole Miss has to establish the run and be efficient on offense. On defense, they must contain Vanderbilt wideout Jordan Matthews and adjust if quarterback Carta-Samuels brings some wrinkles as film on him in Vandy’s offense is hard to come by. The Rebels need to win the turnover battle.
Collier: Last year, the field-position battle was key, and I think it will be again. Having senior punter Tyler Campbell to go along with senior running back Jeff Scott on punt return should make a difference for the Rebels. Ole Miss also has to score when it gets to the red zone. They settled for too many field goals last year.