By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
While the pace of football has changed through the years, the root of success still begins on the ground – running the football and stopping the run.
Houston Nutt’s most successful offenses have been grounded with a strong rushing offense and play-action passing, and he successfully recruited to that philosophy with talent on both lines.
Restocking the defensive front was a must. It’s been the impetus for strong defensive play the last two seasons and is in the midst of transition. Three of the top four ends are gone. Next season the Rebels will lose four tackles and end Kentrell Lockett.
It’s time to begin passing the baton, and pick-ups like Glenn Dorsey, Carlos Thompson and Delvin Jones have the ability to contribute early.
Nutt called the class of defensive line recruits the best he’s been around.
The offensive line signees lack the same recruiting stars and “wow” factor. The staff was hopeful of adding Olive Branch tackle Shon Coleman but lost him to Auburn. Still there are numbers and quality.
More bodies, bulk
This position is more cerebral than instinctive. OL coach Mike Markuson, now co-offensive coordinator, does a good job with his players. He’s got more bodies and more bulk now, and in two years he’ll have Arkansas transfer Matt Hall.
This will be a rebuilding unit in 2010 with experience at the tackles and an overhaul on the interior, but the future is promising.
With focus on the trenches and the secondary there was less room for big numbers at the skill positions – particularly with three lost scholarships. East Mississippi Community College quarterback Randall Mackey and Noxubee County wide receiver Vincent Sanders are the best candidates for a quick impact.
Mackey will compete at quarterback but can help at other positions as well.
Sanders, with hands and speed, moves into group of receivers who got few chances behind Shay Hodge last season and as a result are not as developed as they need to be.
Mackey’s immediate challenge is to graduate from junior college. Provided that happens, he could be the player that makes the “Wild Rebel” a bigger part of the offense next season, bringing a pass option to that set that Dexter McCluster did for only one crucial attempt against LSU.
Looking across the roster, there is not a single unit on offense or defense that did not lose a major playmaker.
The 2010 class, those who arrive in decent shape and acclimate quickly, will have ample opportunity to compete for playing time.
Nutt says he generally plays six or seven newcomers a year. He doesn’t like to use the word “rebuilding” about next season.
Call it whatever you like. Different players will be called upon to replace yards, points and defensive plays that departed with the 2009 senior class.
Nutt’s second straight top 20 class is a step in that direction.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.