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Spring Game Winners and Losers

Ole Miss Football: 2013 Spring Football Winners and Losers

Seph Anderson, Sportswriter to The South, covers timely Ole Miss, SEC, & national news from the sports world.

Email:  seph.anderson@hottytoddy.com

Twitter: @SephAnderson 

Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Hugh Freeze’s Ole Miss Rebels took part in the annual Grove Bowl on Saturday, April 13, in front of an announced crowd of 28,000.

It provided Ole Miss fans with their first chance to see their team since the Rebels won the 2013 BBVA Compass Bowl in early January.

While starting quarterback Bo Wallace remains sidelined as he recovers from shoulder surgery, reserve QBs Barry Brunetti and Maikhail Miller (among others) had a chance to show the Rebel faithful what they could do with the myriad of offensive weapons in Oxford.

With players like defensive end C.J. Johnson and tight end Christian Morgan injured and wide receiver Donte Moncrief seeing only very limited action as a medical precaution, the format for the spring game was a mix between a scrimmage and practice drills.

Nevertheless, Rebel fans got a chance to see their team ahead of the summer.

Let’s dig into some of the winners and losers of Ole Miss’ spring practice this year.

Winner: LB Mike Marry

Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Senior linebacker Mike Marry was literally a winner this spring for the Rebels.

The Florida native was named the 2013 Chucky Mullins Courage Award recipient.

Mullins was an energetic defensive back for Ole Miss but saw his playing career come to a halt following an on-field collision against Vanderbilt in 1989. Despite becoming paralyzed, his spirits never wavered.

After returning to school and fighting valiantly, Mullins passed away in 1991.

As the 24th winner of the award, Marry will have the honor of wearing No. 38 for Ole Miss in 2013.

Upon receiving the award, the senior commented:

It’s a great honor to be a part of this tradition. Not many people get the chance to do it and it comes with a lot of responsibility, but I feel that the coaches believe that I can handle them, so I am glad that they chose me. It will make me try to go harder and make sure that I do all the little things right because I have more eyes on me now.

Keep an eye out for No. 38 this fall because he’ll being playing with a renewed spirit.

Winner: Running Backs

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Without running back/wide receiver Randall Mackey in 2013, the Rebels searched this spring to find starting RB Jeff Scott some much-needed depth in the backfield.

Between sophomore RBs I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton and true freshman RB Mark Dodson, it’s safe to assume Ole Miss coaches found exactly what they were looking for in Oxford.

Scott will still be a workhorse for the red and blue in 2013, but now he’ll be able to get more rest throughout games. As quick and flashy as the senior is, added rest will equal fresher legs.

Mathers and Walton picked up where they left off in the 2013 BBVA Compass Bowl, looking like guys who can be major contributors this season.

While Dodson stepped in to an entirely new situation, coming into camp as a true freshman, he reassured coaches of exactly why they signed him as part of the Rebels epic 2013 recruiting class.

With a few months’ break before summer practice arrives, running back depthappears to be less of a concern than it was entering spring practice.

With added practice time this summer, the Rebels backfield should be very strong in 2013.

Winner: WR Quadarias Mireles

Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

College coaches like mid-year enrollees for a reason, as the players gain a chance to get ahead of the learning curve before summer practice even begins.

One such mid-year enrollee making Hugh Freeze smile this spring is WR Quadarias “Q” Mireles.

He’s been an instant-impact player for the Rebels, having moved from cornerback to wide receiver within the first few days of spring ball. However, he’s also gotten looks on the punt return team.

The junior college transfer is a dynamic, athletic football player who fills a void (slot receiver) Ole Miss needs to solidify before the fall.

Minus a fully healthy Korvic Neat this spring, Mireles has taken advantage of increased looks at slot.

Between enhanced play from WR Cody Core and all-world WR Laquon Treadwell arriving this summer in Oxford, competition at wide receiver should get pretty darn hot this summer.

Depth should be no issue.

Loser: TE Christian Morgan

True freshman TE Christian Morgan arrived in Oxford as an early enrollee this spring.

Why?

The Rebels were literally at a ground zero position in terms of the tight end position, as a result of TEs Ferbia Allen and Jamal Mosley having graduated at the end of last season.

Morgan wanted a chance to shine prior to fellow freshmen TEs Evan Engram and A.J. Jackson arriving at Ole Miss in the summer.

While Morgan was adjusting to the speed of the college game and learning Hugh Freeze’s complex offense during spring camp, the true freshman was also showing potential.

Unfortunately for the big Texan, he sustained a torn meniscus late in spring training, which will now sideline him for an estimated four to six weeks.

As a result, he didn’t get a chance to compete in the annual Grove Bowl spring game.

Loser: Injury Bug

Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The greatest fear coaches have in spring practice is the possibility of serious injury to players.

Unfortunately for Ole Miss, they were hit pretty hard by the injury bug in the month of April.

While DE C.J. Johnson (broken fibula) and TE Christian Morgan (torn meniscus) were lost for quite some time, many other players saw only limited action this spring due to minor injuries.

In fact, the Grove Bowl took on an entirely different format this year because of injury fears.

Darone Bailey, Issac Gross, Chase Hughes, C.J. Johnson, Patrick Junen, Collins Moore, Christian Morgan, Aaron Morris, Vince Sanders and Charles Sawyer were among players held out of the spring scrimmage due to the injury bug.

Nevertheless, Freeze was wise to limit the amount of contact in the spring finale.

All of these men are expected to return healthy this fall, and Freeze hopes his club can avoid the injury bug when summer camp opens in a few months.

Loser: Reserve Quarterbacks

Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Let the quarterback controversy continue, as neither reserve QB Barry Brunetti or Maikhail Miller did very much to separate himself as the top option behind starter Bo Wallace.

While Ole Miss coaches knew Wallace would be sidelined this spring (recovering from shoulder surgery), they surely hoped to see one or both of the reserves take a step toward the next level.

However, that simply didn’t happen.

Neither Brunetti or Miller looked awful, but neither looked great.

Fortunately for Rebel fans, there aren’t any starting QB controversies like there were throughout both the Houston Nutt and Ed Orgeron eras. Nevertheless, there is a significant controversy brewing at reserve quarterback.

In the spring game, Brunetti, Miller, Robert Ratliff and Khalid Purnell saw action under center.

Each had their moments, but again, there was no clear separation from one player to another.

This summer, true freshmen QBs Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade join the competition.

With at least six options behind Wallace, surely someone will stand out this summer.

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