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Scouting the Enemy: Ole Miss looks to outscore the Red Raiders

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With less than 2 months until kickoff at NRG Stadium, it’s time to identify the Red Raider’s first opponent.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Just one year removed from the Hugh Freeze scandal, the Ole Miss Rebels have taken the interim tag off of Coach Matt Luke. The Rebels cannot play in a bowl game this coming season due to NCAA sanctions, so look for this team to compete hard every game.

Rebel Offense

Ole Miss had one of the top offenses in the SEC last season. Expect a similar style of play that the Red Raiders will face throughout the Big 12. Ole Miss will come out slinging the ball and they look to put up a lot of points.

The Rebels will be led by Senior QB Jordan Ta’amu. Ta’amu played in 8 games last season after now Michigan QB, Shea Patterson, went down with a season-ending injury. In 8 games Ta’amu was 115/173 (66.5%) passing with 1682 yards, 11 TDs and 4 INTs. He also ran for 165 yards and 4 TDs last season. Ta’amu can be an accurate passer and shows mobility to get out of the pocket and scramble for the Rebels.

Ta’amu will have a veteran offensive line protecting him as the Rebels return 4 starters including standout tackle, Greg Little. Little is projected by some to be a top 10 pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

Ta’amu’s biggest target this coming season is likely going to be A.J. Brown. Brown played in all 12 games last season and had 75 receptions, 1252 yards, and 11 TDs. A.J. Brown led the SEC in receiving last year and he is not a player to be taken lightly. Brown is shifty in the open field and he is quick off of the snap. Look for him to exploit any press coverages that the Red Raider DBs throw his way. It is likely that David Gibbs and his staff will be playing a lot of double coverage on Brown.

Along with Brown, the Rebels return WR standouts DaMarkus Lodge and D.K. Metcalf. Lodge had 698 yards and seven TDs last season and expect the Senior to play big in his home state. Metcalf emerged as a future star for the Rebels last year. At 6’4” Metcalf will be a top redzone threat for the Rebels. Last season Metcalf had 646 yards and seven TDs and these numbers will surely expand for the Oxford native.

While the Rebels have a potent passing offense the run game is a bit of a question. After their 1,000 yard rusher in Jordan Wilkins left for the NFL, it is difficult to determine whether D’Vaughn Pennamon or Eric Swinney will get the majority of the carries. Both backs are physical runners. Don’t expect either to show any flash or finesse in the open field. Instead these two are bruisers that will wear down a defense if their offensive line can hold up their end.

Rebel Defense

While the Rebel offense is lethal, their defense is all bark and no bite. Last season the Rebel defense allowed 460 yards and 35 points per game. The pass defense was rough, and the run defense might have been worse. Look for the Red Raiders to light up the scoreboard in Houston.

Last season the Rebels gave up 2,944 yards on the ground. The Ole Miss run defense was ranked 123rd in the country and their opponent rushed for over 300 yards on three occasions. In each of those three games the Rebels found themselves on the losing end of the scoreboard.

The Ole Miss defense returns seven starters from last year’s team, but they lost two key players on the defensive line in Marquis Haynes and Breeland Speaks. Those two players combined for 14.5 sacks and will surely be tough to replace.

A name to look for on the defensive line is Junior Josiah Coatney. The defensive lineman is a JUCO transfer that was a 4-star recruit coming out of high school. At the JUCO level Josiah recorded 46 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, two blocked kicks, and scored two defensive touchdowns. He is likely to help replace the hole that Haynes and Speaks left.

In the secondary, Ole Miss returns four starters. The top defensive backs are senior C.J. Moore and senior Zedrick Woods. Moore had 51 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two pass break ups, and three interceptions. Meanwhile, Woods recorded 64 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and four pass break ups. Both players are hard-nosed safeties, but I’m confident the Tech receivers can outplay them.

At the linebacker position the Rebels have a few question marks. After leading tackler DeMarquis Gates left for the NFL, Ole Miss will look to Detric Bing-Dukes to fill the void. Detric is a Senior and did not contribute to the team very much last year due to an off the field issue. Detric faced a suspension for last year’s opener and was in and out of the lineup throughout the season. This season he is projected to elevate his game and live up to the hype of being a 4-star recruit out of high school.

Key to the game

Both teams are going to score a lot of points in this one. The key to the game will be decided by David Gibbs and his defense. If they can find a way to slow down A.J. Brown and the Rebel offense, it’s likely that Tech pulls this one out.