The college football season is around seven months away, but Ole Miss is already set to enter a pivotal part of their preseason with spring practices starting today. This training will give early enrollees in the 2015 signing class a chance to learn the offensive and defensive schemes and help decide who the starters will be for the upcoming season.
The biggest position battle going into spring practices is for who will replace Bo Wallace as the starting quarterback for the Rebels. Ole Miss returns redshirt sophomore passers DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan, redshirt freshman Kendrick Doss and has also added top junior college quarterback Chad Kelly. Also entering the fray is Louisiana quarterback Jason Pellerin, but he won’t enroll until August and could likely end up redshirting. While Kincade and Buchanan’s two years with the program certainly gives them an advantage, Kelly is a dual threat quarterback well suited for head coach Hugh Freeze’s offense. It will likely come between those three for the job.
The offensive line could feature some interesting battles as well, as five-star freshman Javon Patterson is participating in spring practice and will be fighting to see time at either guard spot right away. The incumbent starters are seniors Justin Bell and Aaron Morris, but Morris is currently recovering from a knee injury. Sophomore Rod Taylor saw plenty of time last season and could possibly earn a starting job with strong play in the preseason. At right tackle, senior Fahn Cooper seems poised to keep his starting job, but sophomore Christian Morris will also have a chance to earn some playing time.
With two starters at linebacker graduating, the battle to fill those spots will be one of the most important parts of spring training. Senior Christian Russell will likely slide into the middle linebacker spot vacated by Deterrian Shackleford, with junior Temario Strong and sophomore DeMarquis Gates vying for time behind him. At outside linebacker, senior Denzel Nkemdiche is recovering from a leg injury but will likely be the starter when he returns. Junior College linebacker Terry Caldwell will also be fighting for time there.
Defensive tackle could also be an exciting spot to watch. Junior college tackle D.J. Jones is expected to make a big impact in his first year with Ole Miss, but his only chance at a starting spot would have to come at the expense of senior Isaac Gross, who’s played very well when healthy throughout his career.
One of the best battles of spring training could come at the wide receiver position. While junior Laquon Treadwell will claim the number one receiver spot once he returns, the rest is up for grabs. Senior Cody Core had a breakout season last year and will be a major candidate to take the outside receiver spot opposite Treadwell. Also fighting for this spot will be Washington transfer Damore’ea Stringfellow, who has great size at 6-foot-3, 229 pounds. Whichever player doesn’t take over on the outside will likely move inside to the slot, where junior Quincy Adeboyejo and sophomore Markell Pack could also see time.
The Rebels return 58 lettermen and 16 position starters from last season, including nine starters on the offensive side of the ball and seven on the defensive side.