A crowd of 60,000 or thereabouts will gather at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday to watch a football game that could also be defined as a sociology experiment.
Coaches often tell us when they have young players – You can substitute the word inexperienced for young – getting the word out, possibly, to keep high expectations in check.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt has taken a different approach in the long, hot days leading to a Saturday afternoon kickoff against BYU. He’s told us that he has young players, but he’s told us with enthusiasm and pride.
Nutt has called the class “very important,” and when the season’s first depth chart was released Monday it listed a freshman, a Division I transfer and three junior college transfers as starters. Eight other newcomers were sprinkled throughout the two-deep roster, so plenty of players will be playing major college football for the first time this week.
Which brings us back to the experiment.
Is it more necessary to have experience or ability?
The answer, of course, is both. All things in moderation. Experience is great, but if you can’t catch the guy in front of you there are problems that knowledge and understanding won’t help you solve.
On the flip side, speed is a wonderful thing, but if you’re running to the wrong spot, you’re defeating the purpose.
Nutt is banking on three new coaches – experienced coaches – to get inexperienced players ready to go. If they have been successful this month then some of these freshmen will play like sophomores.
The best scenario – if you can’t have old talent – is young talent with enough experienced players to help lead the way.
The Rebels are pretty thin on the experience side of the ledger. Beyond Kentrell Lockett, there are a few defensive players who are upperclassmen, but the best leaders are those have not only gained mileage but have achieved at a high-level. The playmakers tend to get the attention of the new guys, and the Rebels are short on proven defensive playmakers.
There’s a better mix on offense, though there’s inexperience at a key position like quarterback.
One reason Nutt has talked so much about his signing class is that there aren’t many all-conference types on the roster to talk about.
This is indeed a “very important” class, because there’s all-conference potential at a number of spots.
Names like Donte Moncrief, Nick Brassell, Senquez Golson, Uriah Grant, Jamal Mosely and others have gotten lots of play this month.
Occasionally we write about a developing player a year or two into his career, one whose time has come. You can see it in the gains he’s made, the shift of opportunity in front of him through attrition.
That doesn’t apply to so many in this class. Their time is not in a year or two.
If the Rebels are to rebound their time is now.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@ journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal