EDITOR’S NOTE: Counting down to the first week of Ole Miss football practice the week of August 15, HottyToddy.com’s own Collin Brister, former sports editor of the Daily Mississippian, will bring you exclusive “5 at 5” analyses of either A) the opponents Ole Miss will be facing this season or B) some background on Ole Miss’ players at each position. It’s being called “5 at 5” because each original piece will give you 5 key things to know, and we will post these stories at 5 p.m. every Monday-Friday.
The Rebels lost two contributors from last year’s linebacker core as C.J. Johnson and Christian Russell graduated and have moved on. Johnson was in his first year at linebacker, the position he was heavily recruited at in high school, as the Philadelphia, Mississippi native had been a key fixture among the Rebels defensive line in the 2012 and 2014 seasons. Russell provided valuable depth at the position, and the Rebels will have to replace him. Johnson was one of the more vocal leaders of the team, so his presence in leadership is something that the Rebels will have to replace as well.
Demarquis Gates had a solid 2015 season for Ole Miss, as the sophomore led the team in tackles. Gates became more and more comfortable as the season progressed, and was one of Ole Miss’ better defensive players towards the end of the 2015 season. The Rebels also return senior Terry Caldwell. Caldwell filled in for Johnson when he missed time during the 2015 season with a knee injury. Caldwell had 32 tackles last season and forced two fumbles.
courtesy Ole Miss Sports
Ole Miss missed out on some targets for the linebacker position in its 2016 signing class but was able to sign two players with division-one experience. The Rebels added Rommel Mageo who led Oregon State in tackles last season. Ole Miss was also able to add Detric Bing-Dukes who signed with the University of Georgia initially out of high school.
Inside Linebacker-Rommel Mageo, Detric Bing-Dukes, Willie Hibbler
Stinger-Demarquis Gates, Terry Caldwell, Temario Strong
This is the most interesting position among the Ole Miss defense, as Ole Miss doesn’t really know what they have at the position. Sure, Gates was good last season for the Rebels, but Ole Miss will be relying heavily on the services of two transfer players during the 2016 season. The Rebels struggled at times during the 2015 season (see: Arkansas Razorbacks) and it bit them. Ole Miss will need Mageo to play well during the season for them to have sustained success at the position. The Rebels will also need Gates to continue his high level of play. The wild card here is Temario Strong. Strong is a senior from South Panola that has played on special teams mainly during his time in Oxford. The Batesville native had a strong showing at the spring camp, and could find himself in the rotation during the season.
View Yesterday’s “5 at 5” here
Collin Brister is a staff writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.