OPINION: Rebels strike the right tone on preseason polls

OXFORD – We asked the question on Saturday, because it’s what we do. It’s what they taught in J-School. You ask, because you just never know.
I thought I had a good idea how Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt would answer the react-to-the-ranking question, but you just never know.
Sometimes you get a surprising response and think, “Wow, did he really say that?” but that’s mostly just with Tennessee these days.
“What about that AP Top 25, coach? They’ve got you guys at No. 8. First preseason top 10 ranking for Ole Miss since 1970.”
“Keep our blinders on,” Nutt said.
Nothing racy or electric there. Work hard, eyes ahead, forget the polls. They didn’t like us last year, the coach says.
In the competitive media market, it’s not really something that ignites a fan base and sparks readership. Then the star quarterback comes behind the coach and says the same thing.
Guys, can you help a brother out?
Boring as it might be, it’s the correct approach. As Ole Miss enters into uncharted territory a quiet, businesslike manner at least lets you act like you’ve been there, and believing is half the battle in this game. Nothing to be gained by calling out opponents or drawing attention to yourself.
Fact of the matter is, we’re still a week-and-a-half out from Game Day. These are preseason rankings. They facilitate discussion. They’ll mean more in October.
You can bet your bottom dollar that somebody – maybe more than one team – among this elite group will implode. Someone will stumble and fall. Last year, it was Auburn.
At the same time, some team that isn’t hanging with the elite right now will rise and find its place at the table.
Having earned a spot at the table, now the question for Ole Miss is how to stay there.
Depth is the great insurance policy. Nutt set out to build it on the offensive line and in the secondary without great progress so far. Freshman Bobby Massie didn’t pick up left tackle quickly and has been moved to the right side. Junior college transfer Logan Clair now lines up behind Bradley Sowell at left tackle, and Nutt says a redshirt year to increase strength would really benefit Clair.
The Rebels will have a capable starter at strong safety in Johnny Brown, but signees Jamar Hornsby and Tig Barksdale are missed here.
The best way to stay at the table is to stay healthy and never cash in that policy in the first place. Having your best players on the field as often as possible is the best way to achieve the consistency that winning big requires.
If that’s happening in October, then Nutt will have further ignited the fan base.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@ djournal.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.

Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

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