Five story lines as Ole Miss begins spring football practice tomorrow …
1. Chad Kelly: If the troubled quarterback settles down and wins the job he could be the missing piece for an offense with talented receivers and promising running backs. If he doesn’t win the job, well, history suggests drama won’t be far behind. If Kelly entrenches himself as the starter by the end of spring there could be transfer drama in the off-season for one or both of DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan.
2. Laquon Treadwell: Hugh Freeze has said that Treadwell, his game-changing wide receiver, will likely be involved in spring practice in some way. Treadwell a few weeks back posted a video online that showed he and linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche running on the indoor field. Treadwell and Nkemdiche suffered broken ankles a week a part last year, Nkemdiche at LSU followed by Treadwell – when he was inches from scoring the likely winning touchdown – at home against Auburn.
What Treadwell gets done in the spring really doesn’t matter much. The most important thing is for him to be as healthy and conditioned as possible when August camp begins.
That being said, a few appearances by him in spring practice will send a surge of confidence throughout the team. Given the last two SEC games and the bowl game it’s clear what he means to this team.
3. Elston and Stringfellow: Rising senior strong safety Trae Elston and transfer wide receiver Damor’ea Stringfellow were arrested on disorderly conduct charges in late January. Elston was also charged with resisting arrest when he initially fled the downtown scene. Elston has since apologized for his behavior. Freeze will likely issue an update at his pre-spring presser Tuesday. When Denzel Nkemdiche and Serderius Bryant were arrested on similar charges last off-season, Bryant went through spring practice while Nkemdiche did not. Nkemdiche was also suspended for the season opener against Boise State. Elston was a expected to be a leader in a secondary that loses All-Americans Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson. He’ll step right back into that role if he meets discipline requirements along the way. Stringfellow’s situation is trickier. If he misses spring that could be a setback as he tries to earn a starting job.
4. Offensive Line: The Rebels were among the worst in the SEC in rushing offense (10th) and in sacks allowed (12th). Remember, that sack figure comes with a quarterback who was decently mobile and savvy. All five starters return, but all five may not hold jobs. There are more bodies and more talent at the position. The Rebels have one of their SEC’s top NFL prospects at left tackle in Laremy Tunsil. They need to put a solid group around him. That will likely include in some capacity freshman Javon Patterson, who is set to go through spring drills.
5. The Secondary: Sans Prewitt and Golson is the depth good enough to keep the back end strong? Cornerbacks Tee Shepard and Tony Bridges and safety C.J. Hampton offer intriguing possibilities but have no game experience.