Ole Miss Team News

Matt Luke, Ole Miss have 3 worrisome positions this spring

Ole Miss coach Matt Luke
John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss began spring practice February 27, and while the Rebels are really good at certain positions – especially wide receiver – there are questions at a few other spots.

Here’s a look at the three biggest position questions.

1. Running back

Last season, Jordan Wilkins did the bulk of the work on the ground for the Rebels, rushing for 1,011 yards (63 percent of the team’s total) on 155 carries (42 percent of the team’s total). But he was a senior and there are concerns about his replacement.

Backup D’Vaughn Pennamon suffered a knee injury in Game 11 and is missing spring practice. Eric Swinney was not fully recovered from a knee injury he suffered at the beginning of the 2016 season against Florida State and had only 41 carries last season.

With Wilkins’ graduation, former four-star defensive back Armani Linton was moved to running back. True freshman Isaiah Woullard and JC transfer Scottie Phillips enrolled in January and are going through spring practice. The squatty Phillips – he is 5 feet 8 and 212 pounds – averaged 123.6 yards per game last season at Jones County (Miss.) JC, which ranked third nationally in the National Junior College Athletic Association. Woullard (5-9, 200) is the leading rusher in Mississippi high school history, with 8,294 yards. But he played at a small private school – Presbyterian Christian in Hattiesburg – and wasn’t a highly regarded recruit (a consensus two-star prospect).

The X-factor is quarterback Jordan Ta’amu. Last season, he was second on the team in rushing attempts. Combined, he and Shea Patterson – who’s now at Michigan – combined for 104 rushing attempts.

RELATED: Expect some intense recruiting battles in Mississippi, which is loaded with top-fight prospects

2. Linebacker

Ole Miss has been horrible against the run the past two seasons. In 2016, the Rebels allowed 246.3 rushing yards per game and 31rushing TDs; last season, it was 245.3 per game and 29 TDs.

The Rebels signed five linebackers in this class and the most important might be JC transfer Vernon Dasher (6-1, 200), who already has enrolled. He is a three-star recruit who will play the “star” position – a linebacker/safety hybrid.

Senior Detric Big-Dukes and junior Willie Hibbler opened spring as the starters in the inside, but neither is anything close to a lock to keep those jobs. This is a big spring for sophomore Mohamed Sanogo and redshirt freshmen Josh Clarke and Zi Baker. Brenden Williams, a former JC transfer, has been moved from linebacker to defensive end.

RELATED: Mother knows best: Ole Miss’ best recruiter might not even be a coach

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