Reason No. 4: Redshirt Freshmen | Ole Miss Sports

This is a random order. Here’s another reason Ole Miss will be improved in 2011.

Nowhere will redshirt freshmen be relied upon more heavily than the defensive front, where Carlton Martin and Bryon Bennett, teammates at Madison Central two years ago, will compete for starting jobs.

They were very accomplished high school players, both ranking among the state’s top 10 prospects following the 2009 season.

Both had good springs. They’re smaller than the guys they’ll replace, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They’ll have to rely more on technique and quickness.

Given the losses up front and just the fact that defense wasn’t very good last year, it would be a nice lift for the Rebels if Martin and Bennett step in and play beyond their years.

Elsewhere, look for Ralph Williams to make an impact on defense. He goes into camp as the starter at weak side linebacker. A Miami native, Williams made some nice plays in the spring. Whether he holds the starting job remains to be seen. Houston Nutt has indicated there will be a role of some sort of freshman C.J. Johnson. Johnson played an inside linebacker spot in high school. Currently the middle starter is sophomore Mike Marry. It’s possible there will be some shuffling to get the best players on the field.

Redshirt Cliff Coleman could get on the field at cornerback. Like Williams, Coleman will have to hold off some talented freshmen, most notably Senquez Golson and possibly Nick Brassell.

Offensively, keep an eye on Vincent Sanders at wide receiver. He had a productive spring and posted 96 yards on four catches in the Grove Bowl. Coaches like his work ethic. (See the hold off the freshmen analysis above.)

Other redshirt freshmen include running back Nick Parker and long snapper Will Denny. Parker was highly recruited out of South Panola, but there’s a lot of experience ahead of him on the depth chart.

Hit hard by attrition, the class of redshirts is missing OL Terrence Hackney and DE Delvin Jones. That does not include signees LB Clarence Jackson, FB Martez Eastland and CB Tony Grimes. They played roles last year but are no longer in the program.