OXFORD – Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt has sung the praises of his signing class since the day his freshmen and junior college transfers signed.
The first depth chart of the season lists one freshman, a Division I transfer and three junior college transfers as starters. Eight other newcomers are listed on the two-deep roster.
Wide receiver Donte Moncrief is listed as the starter at split end. Six-foot-six junior Melvin Harris, who has been battling back pain, is not listed on the two-deep.
Moncrief showed up big in the Rebels’ second major scrimmage and was expected to figure prominently in the game plan whether or not he started.
“I knew I had a good chance to play with Melvin getting hurt,” he said. “I came in and listened and learned. I practiced a lot and worked overtime with the quarterbacks on the routes. We got better and got on the same page. The more that happened, the better I got.”
Redshirt freshman Vincent Sanders is listed second at split end.
Ole Miss signed five receivers in February, and junior college transfer Philander Moore arrived early at mid-term.
“As freshmen, we all have something to prove,” Moncrief said. “A lot of us were coming in expecting to play early. We have to show we’re not scared of how old people are or how big they are. We have to come in and give them everything we’ve got.”
Garbutt at the Spur
Junior college transfer Aaron Garbutt will want to show all he’s got too. He showed enough in camp to earn the starting spot at the “Spur” position, a hybrid safety-linebacker spot in the Rebels’ 4-3 alignment.
Garbutt won the job in spite of not arriving in time for spring drills. When newcomers arrived at the beginning of the month Nutt said he was impressed with the conditioning Garbutt had achieved on his own.
“He’s very physical. He plays like a linebacker and has cover skills. He’s been very helpful to us,” Nutt said.
Garbutt’s emergence allowed for the move of Damien Jackson back to safety after the staff had experimented with Jackson at Spur.
The backup at Spur is junior college transfer Ivan Nicholas, a mid-year enrollee.
Jackson, the team’s top returning tackler, is listed second to Charles Sawyer at free safety.
Confidence in Brunetti
Just days before the 2010 season opener there was uncertainly at quarterback as the Rebels awaited word on the status of Oregon transfer Jeremiah Masoli.
Ultimately, Masoli was ruled eligible on appeal and played in the 49-48 two-overtime loss to Division I-AA Jacksonville State.
“This time last year we did not know the outcome of the Masoli situation,” Nutt said. “Barry Brunetti has been here since January and has gotten a lot of good reps. I am excited about Barry and how hard he’s worked.”
Brunetti might have won the starting job anyway but was named starter last Tuesday when Nutt announced the one-game suspension of Randall Mackey, who was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge.
Brunetti, Mackey and junior college transfer Zack Stoudt were locked in a three-way race that Nutt had said was too close to call before Mackey’s arrest.
Nutt says Brunetti has been the most “accountable” of all three.
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal