Top 10 intriguing Rebels to watch

Channing Ward has the physical skills to be a major contributor for Ole Miss this season.

Channing Ward has the physical skills to be a major contributor for Ole Miss this season.

By Parrish Alford
Daily Journal

OXFORD – Ole Miss players will meet the media this afternoon and will begin their much-anticipated football season with their first practice Saturday morning.

The Rebels went 7-6 overall, 3-5 in the SEC in Hugh Freeze’s first season as coach.

As camp begins, it’s a very different mindset for Ole Miss than it was one season ago. On Thursday the Rebels were in the receiving votes category of the USA Today coaches poll.

Freeze spent the off-season talking about the program’s “journey” and managing expectations.

There are high expectations from many in the fan base, and today the Daily Journal takes a look at the 10-most intriguing players who will likely have the most to say about how the season plays out.

• Bo Wallace, quarterback: Will his surgically repaired shoulder hold up, and can he cut down on his interceptions? If so, it could be a big season for Wallace.

• Donte Moncrief, wide receiver: A junior, Moncrief has spoken about the possibility of turning pro after this season. If so, he’ll need spread his production throughout more of the season. Moncrief had 10 touchdown catches last year, half of them in the last two games. He had only one TD catch in his first six SEC games last year.

• Emmanuel McCray, offensive tackle: He’s charged with protecting Wallace’s blind side, and too many times last year Wallace made decisions under duress. The Rebels ranked No. 97 in the nation last year in sacks allowed at 2.62 per game.

• Robert Nkemdiche, defensive end: The nation’s No. 1 recruit will be expected to give the Rebels more pass rush off the edge.

• Channing Ward, defensive end: The All-American from Aberdeen was the most heralded recruit in Freeze’s first signing class and has the physical skills to be a major contributor.

• Andrew Ritter, kicker: Redshirted as a senior for this season, Ritter has not held the place-kicking job in college and replaces dependable Bryson Rose.

• Tyler Campbell, punter: Also redshirted as a senior, Campbell was the NCAA punting champ as a sophomore with a 46.4-yard average.

• C.J. Johnson, defensive end: Johnson had 6.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss last year. Can he increase those numbers while coming off a broken leg?

• Laremy Tunsil, offensive line: If the nation’s No. 1 OL recruit breaks into the starting lineup either he or someone else will play a different position. The only opening is at guard.

• Dehendret Collins, cornerback: With Nick Brassell likely unavailable, the Rebels need a big season from Collins in the quest for depth at corner.

parrish.alford@journalinc.com