Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Sports Network) - 2011 SEASON IN REVIEW: The 2011 campaign was easily one of the worst in the history of Ole Miss football, as the Rebels went just 2-10 overall and failed to win a game in the SEC (0-8).
The poor performance caused fourth-year head coach Houston Nutt to resign, finishing his tenure as the Rebels' coach with a disappointing 24-26 record.
The squad's only two wins came on Sept. 10 against FCS foe Southern Illinois (42-24), and on Oct. 1 at Fresno State (38-28). The Rebels finished the season on a seven-game losing streak and managed to score a just 13 points combined in their last three games.
OFFENSE: Taking over as head coach is Hugh Freeze, and his first order of business will be to improve the Rebels' stagnant offense, which ranked 11th in the SEC a year ago in both points per game (16.1) and yards per game (281.3).
After sub par play from the team's quarterbacks last season, one of Freeze's most important orders of business has been addressing who will be his new signal-caller, with Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti both vying for the job. Wallace is a junior college transfer from East Mississippi, where he went 12-0 and set NJCAA single-season records for passing yards (4,810) and touchdown passes (53) last year. Brunetti, now a junior, saw limited action in 2011, completing 19-of-35 attempts for 144 yards.
With Freeze trying to implement a new up-tempo style, he would ideally like one candidate to step up in fall camp, but he has not ruled out the idea of the two splitting snaps this season.
"I said all along it wouldn't shock me for that competition to extend into the early part of the season, Freeze said. "It may not. One may totally separate themself. But both, I've been pleased with the way I've seen their physiques changing through workouts. I've seen them coming around a lot to study on their own. That was much needed."
Leading receiver Donte Moncrief (31 catches, 454 yards, 4 touchdowns) returns and will be a viable option for whomever wins the quarterback battle. Expected to join Moncrief in the starting lineup are Ja-Mes Logan (272 yards) and Collins Moore (69 yards).
Running backs Jeff Scott and Brandon Bolden split carries last season, combining for 1,066 yards and 10 touchdowns. With Bolden graduated, Scott assumes the role as the featured back and will set out to accomplish those type of numbers by himself this season.
DEFENSE: The Ole Miss defense was somehow worse off than the offense in 2011, ranking dead last in the SEC in both scoring defense (32.1 ppg) and total defense (419.3 ypg). Veteran assistant coach Dave Wommack takes over as the defensive coordinator this season for a unit that truly has no where to go but up.
The good news for the Rebels is that they have retained their top two defensive players in Mike Marry (81 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks) and Charles Sawyer (70 tackles, 4 interceptions). These two leaders experienced such a terrible year in 2011 that both will be eager to improve.
Joining Marry and Sawyer in the starting lineup are fellow veterans C.J. Johnson (32 tackles, 4 tackles for loss), Aaron Garbutt (51 tackles) and Wesley Pendleton (19 tackles, 4 pass breakups).
Overall, the unit hopes to get more pressure on the quarterback this season, as it accumulated just 13 sacks last year.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Ole Miss returns both kicking specialists, as placekicker Bryson Rose was great in limited opportunities in 2011, going 9-of-11 on field goal attempts, and Tyler Campbell was one of the busiest punters in the nation last year, booting 72 balls with a 43.6 yard average.
Tobias Singleton was the team's top kick returner as a freshman, posting 516 yards on 21 returns and he figures to get better with each passing game.
OUTLOOK: It's no secret that these are dark times for the Ole Miss football program. A changing of the guard at head coach is a start, and while turnarounds from bad seasons happen every year, that sort of fortune just isn't in the cards for the Rebels considering they play in the most difficult conference in the nation.
"Our program is in a spot that none of us are happy with," Freeze said. "I get that. I'm very anxious about starting the process and the journey to get us out of being where we are and back to where it's been in years past.
To make matters worse, they are in the SEC West, the more challenging of the two divisions, meaning they'll have to face off against powerhouses Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas and LSU this season. The Rebels will have opportunities to win non-league games against Central Arkansas, UTEP and Tulane, but it's conceivable that they could go winless in conference once again.