February 4, 2008

Nutt's recruiting class addressing needs

Certainly a team that struggled as much as the Ole Miss football team did in the 2007 season would have some holes to fill on its roster.

Ole Miss lost two quarterbacks, two running backs, a starting offensive lineman, two tight ends and some defensive line depth.

While the loss of some seniors created some needs, the Rebels also have to find depth at some key positions.

And coming off a year without a SEC win and just three wins overall, Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt and his staff needed to target a number of players in key areas.

With National Signing Day only a few days away, here's how the Rebels have addressed a few need positions.

Defensive back

Perhaps the biggest point of emphasis since Nutt and his staff began recruiting for Ole Miss, the Rebels have added a lot of bodies to the defensive secondary.

Teams like Memphis, Missouri and Vanderbilt spread the field against the Rebels, and in addition to racking up yards, those offenses exposed a huge weakness.

Ole Miss just simply didn't have enough bodies to cover four- and five-receiver sets,

In his first recruiting class at Ole Miss, Nutt's made a point to address this, getting Jared Mitchell and Julian Whitehead on campus early from Hargrave Military Academy.

In addition to Mitchell and Whitehead, Nutt's staff currently holds commitments from five other defensive backs - addressing depth issues.

The Rebels also could add four-star cornerback Josh Pleasant from Hargrave if the scholarship numbers work out.

Linebacker

After seeing Patrick Willis patrol the middle of the field for years, there was a notable drop off in 2007. An injury to Jonathan Cornell exposed some depth issues.

Chris Strong struggled at linebacker before being bounced back to defensive line. Ashlee Palmer excelled at times, but he was slowed by an ankle injury.

Now, news that Tony Fein could be facing serious punishment for an incident with a member of the Ole Miss academic support staff only highlights the need for quality help.

Ole Miss took a big step in that direction, picking up a commitment from three-star linebacker Patrick Trahan - one of the nation's top junior college prospects.

Nutt's staff has also picked up commitments from Lakenwic Haynes and Jason Jones - a pair of two-star linebackers with an impressive rap sheet of offers.

After losing Marlon Walls, the key here could be Ole Miss soft commit Gavin Hardin, who will choose between the Rebels and Miami.

Tight End

Both Robert Lane and Robert Hough graduated, taking with them the only real experience at the position.

Whether or not the Rebels hang on to Jamal Mosley, Nutt picked up big commitments from a pair of junior college tight ends.

Gerald Harris is already on campus, even hosting visitors. Dudley LaPorte gives the Rebels a big, speedy target to work with.

Ole Miss could also add E.J. Epperson, a former Arkansas commit who could be in line for a switch.

Running back

After losing BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bruce Hall to graduation, Nutt went out and found one of the more underrated backs in the country in Devin Thomas. Before a season-ending injury, Thomas put up prolific numbers.

Ole Miss also added a commitment from Brandon Bolden, a powerful, physically mature three-star running back.

The Rebels top commitment, Army All-American Darius Barksdale, is expected to sign with Nutt Wednesday, giving Ole Miss three quality runners in the class.

The riche could get even richer, with the Rebels a finalist for the nation's top prep prospect, five-star Enrique Davis. The battle for Davis, a former Auburn commit, could go down to the wire.

Kicker

Ex-Rebel coach Ed Orgeron made a point during the season to say that he'd make finding a kickoff man a priority.

The new Rebel staff will probably not have a scholarship available for a kickoff man a specialist. However, the staff could coax two-star Bryson Rose to campus as a non-scholarship player.

Rose is ranked as one of the five most accurate kickers in the 2008 class.


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