SEC Previews: Ole Miss Rebels

While many teams list Kentucky as their go-to sleeper team, I’ve already expressed my doubts about the Wildcats. Allow you to introduce you to my favorite SEC sleeper – the Ole Miss Rebels. Backed by head coach and Saban prodigy Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss returns a dynamic dual-threat signal-caller and their top receiver and could be a pretty scary offense in 2020. 

Top Returners: John Rhys Plumlee, Sam Williams (or Lakia Henry)

My confidence in Ole Miss was shaken slightly with the recent suspension of Williams due to sexual battery charges, reported on July 26. If Williams plays, he will be the on-field leader for the Rebels, having piled up six sacks, an interception, and 38 tackles (9.5 for loss). If he’s not, some question marks arise, but Lakia Henry is another valuable piece on the defense after the former JUCO linebacker recorded 87 tackles and a sack last season, serving primarily as an effective run stopper for Ole Miss. However, while these players are good, the defense was not the reason I became high on the Rebels. 

The SEC doesn’t have a most-improved player, or a breakout player, of the year award, but if they did, I would put my money on John Rhys Plumlee. As a freshman, Plumlee had his struggles at time, and I wouldn’t suggest he was near the top of the freshman quarterback starters, but he may just be the most dynamic quarterback in the conference. He led the Rebels with 1023 yards rushing and did so in just 8 games. He was responsible for posting 37 points on LSU’s championship defense, running for 212 yards and four TDs against the Tigers. If he becomes more polished in the passing game, Ole Miss could do some damage. 

Biggest Concerns: Pass Rush

Benito Jones is gone, bringing with him his 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Can Ole Miss replace that production in 2020? What is Sam Williams’ indefinite suspension remains indefinite? And third-leading sack leader Charles Wiley remains in the transfer portal? Ole Miss could have a real hard time stopping some of these explosive offenses we’re bound to see in the SEC. 

X-Factors: Jacquez Jones

Jacquez Jones will absolutely need to step up his production in order for the Rebels to make moves in 2020. He put forth a solid 2019 season with 71 tackles and 7.5 for loss, to go with two sacks. With the aforementioned questions regarding their pass rush, Ole Miss needs Jones to be firing on all cylinders and ready to be a game-changing force on the defensive line. 

SEC Record Prediction: 5-3

Again, this is a risky prediction, but picks aren’t fun if you just go off of chalk and last year’s rankings. I believe that, under Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss is a team on the rise. Give me Ole Miss setting the tone with a home win versus Auburn in their SEC opener. They’ll beat Arkansas and Vanderbilt with no problem and should take back the Egg Bowl after Elijah Moore’s dog-pee fiasco last year. That’s four wins right there, and I like them to secure a home upset against the Florida Gators to polish it off. It’s bold. But safe picks are boring. Watch out for the Rebels. 

SEC Top Returning Guards: #4 -Devontae Shuler, Ole Miss

With 2019-20 leading scorer Breein Tyree graduated, the Ole Miss Rebels will be centering their offense around their top returning player. For his versatility on both ends on the court and prominent role for his team, Devontae Shuler slots in as our #4 top returning guard to watch in the SEC. 

Shuler has featured impressive minutes since coming to Ole MIss, averaging a steal a game as a substitute in his freshman year, followed by consecutive campaigns of 1.7 steals per game – a top-5 mark in the SEC. He also rebounds beyond his 6’2 height, collecting 4.5 boards per game, while scoring 11.7 ppg and dishing out a team-leading 3.3 assists. He’s the top returning scorer for Ole Miss, so Shuler will be doing it all for the Rebels this year. Enjoy this quick mixtape of Shuler’s highlights (with apparently a unique spelling of his name by its creator)

Shuler’s numbers were relatively ho-hum to start his junior year last season, but the Ole Miss guard began to heat up as conference play started. He recorded his lone double-double of the season against Arkansas on January 11, and at the end of the month, he raised eyebrows with 26 and 28-point outputs against ranked Auburn and LSU squads. He complemented the Auburn performance with 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. On the year, Shuler shot 36% from three-point range and 42% from the field overall, and as the go-to-guy in the Ole Miss offense next year, look for those numbers to improve with increased shot volume. In 12 games last season in which Shuler got 10+ looks from the field, he averaged 16.5 points per game, so his averages should be shooting up as a senior, as the South Carolina looks to improve his draft stock and improve the Rebels’ chances in a highly competitive SEC. 

Daily Headlines: College Coaching Legend Eddie Sutton Passes Away

Legendary NCAA Basketball coach Eddie Sutton passed away on Saturday at the age of 84 – he leaves a legacy as one one of the greatest ever to coach at the collegiate level. He coached for 16 seasons with Oklahoma State, eleven with Arkansas, four with Kentucky, five with Creighton, and a final part of a season with San Francisco. In those 16 seasons with the Cowboys, Sutton never suffered a losing season. He reached three Final Fours – one with Arkansas and two with Oklahoma State – and racked up 806 wins, good for ninth all-time.

Texas Tech loses key player to overseas

Texas Tech lost a key contributor from their 2019 national runners-up team, as Davide Moretti opted to leave the Red Raiders in favor of Olimpia Milano in his native Italy. Moretti started 68 games in the previous two seasons, averaging over 11 points per games in both campaigns. He’s nearly a 90% free throw shooter, and 42% from beyond the arc. Head coach Chris Beard and the Texas Tech staff will be looking for immediate replacements for blow to their starting lineup. They are considered players for former Georgetown star Mac McClung on the transfer market, as well as Jonathan Kuminga, the top 2021 recruit who is considering reclassifying to enter the NCAA next season.

Big 12 cleared to return June 15

On Friday, the SEC announced they would allow teams to report to their athletic facilities on June 8, while the Big 10 said they would leave it up to the schools. Saturday, the Big 12 handed down their decision, clearing their football players to return on June 15. Although a week later, this keeps college football on pace for a on-time start. We can only hope.

Caylin Newton heads to Auburn

In a somewhat surprising decision, Cam Newton’s younger brother, Caylin, has elected to transfer to Auburn, where Cam won a national championship, to complete his collegiate career. He’s been one of the best players in the MEAC, with Howard, but he chooses Auburn as his grad transfer destination, despite sophomore Bo Nix have a firm grip on the starting job. It’ll be curious if head coach Gus Malzahn attempts to utilize him in other ways than a traditional back-up quarterback.

Ole Miss snags Mississippi State transfer

A former ESPN 300 recruit, Mississippi State’s Jarrian Jones announced on Saturday he would be leaving the Bulldogs and flipping sides in the Egg Bowl rivalry, as he will don the red and navy blue uniforms of the Ole Miss Rebels in 2020. The defensive back was all over the board during his recruitment, committing and de-committing from two teams before deciding on Mississippi State. He lasted one season with the Bulldogs, recording twelve tackles and two pass-breakups as a true freshman. He’ll have three seasons of eligibility left with the Rebels

Daily Headlines: NCAA Implements Massive Postseason Ban on 15 Athletic Programs

As referenced by Cal Christoforo in his article on Stephen F. Austin, the NCAA struck with a thundering fist on Tuesday, implementing a postseason ban on fifteen schools that didn’t meet the minimum threshold on their Academic Progress Reports. The report required a four-year score of 930 – which predicts a graduation rate of 50%. Ten schools and fifteen athletic programs did not hit the mark:

  • Alabama A&M men’s basketball, men’s track and women’s soccer
  • Alabama State men’s basketball
  • Coppin State women’s track
  • Delaware State men’s basketball
  • Grambling State men’s track
  • Howard football
  • McNeese State football
  • Prairie View A&M football
  • Southern University men’s cross country and men’s track
  • Stephen F. Austin baseball, football and men’s basketball

The penalty is a postseason ban for the involved programs, but it’s unclear when they have to be served, especially with the ongoing uncertainty regarding the 2021-2022 sports season due the coronavirus pandemic.

USC and Ole Miss schedule first-ever match-up

Power-5 non-conference match-ups are always welcome, and courtesy of USC and Ole Miss, we will get one that we haven’t seen before. The Trojans and Rebels have never met on the gridiron, but they will in 2025 and 2026, as the two programs scheduled a home-and-home. USC will host Ole Miss in the Coliseum in 2025, and in 2026, the Trojans head to the state of Mississippi for the first time in their storied history. Ole Miss will be the 11th of 14 SEC teams that USC has played.