Awaiting word on MRI results for Ole Miss linebacker D.T. Shackelford this morning.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said yesterday that Shackelford’s Monday practice injury, a knee, “could be” serious.
If it is, that’s a major blow to a rebuilding Ole Miss defense that has actually looked pretty good this spring. Shackelford is clearly the leader of this unit. That leadership role will change, to a degree, when Kentrell Lockett returns, but I think there’s room for more than one leader on the defense, especially one so in need of improvement.
Shackelford is the starter at weak side linebacker. If he is unavailable in the fall the microscope moves to sophomroe Clarence Jackson. He’s been very good this spring, and he’s saying the right things about being “a better person on and off the field,” but he still needs to put some distance between himself and the legal isses that ended his freshman season before it really got going.
Plus, Jackson has very little experience. His physical skills are evident, but he has to get on a game day field and get comfortable.
A possible loss of Shackelford also means the Rebels need more from their freshmen. C.J. Johnson, the state’s top recruit, comes to mind, but there will be more opportunities, perhaps, for Serderius Bryant and Keith Lewis. The staff will have to accelerate its pace for getting these guys ready to play.
Ralph Williams, a redshirt freshman, has made some plays this spring. He’ll factor in too.
The best case scenario for Ole Miss, however, is for good news on Shackelford’s MRI report.