It is a new era in Ole Miss football. First-year head coach Lane Kiffin takes over a program that hasn’t made a bowl game since 2015.
The Rebels will be relying on a lot of young talent to try to better themselves from a 4-8 campaign in 2019. Here’s a look at five underclassmen primed for a breakout season.
1. Jerrion Ealy, RB
Ealy is a man who needs no introduction. The former 5-star Under Armour All-American running back is already a household name in Oxford. He appeared in all 12 games in 2019, rushing for 722 yards with an impressive 6.9 average yards per carry. His lateral quickness and breakaway speed make him a threat in the backfield, the passing game, and on kick returns. He was relied upon heavily late last season, with 56 carries and 11 receptions in his final four games. Ealy will be splitting carries with fellow sophomore Snoop Conner, but don’t be surprised when he eclipses the 1,000-yard mark in 2020.
2. Deantre Prince, CB
Rebel fans breathed a sigh of relief when Prince withdrew his name from the transfer portal this summer. The 6-foot-1 true freshman cornerback from Charleston, Miss. appeared in 10 games during the 2019 season. His impressive offer sheet suggested he had the potential to step in and make an immediate impact. Although he recorded a modest 25 tackles, his positioning and ability to read the quarterback were a sight for sore eyes after the Wesley McGriff years. Prince had two clutch interceptions – one in the fourth quarter against California, and the other against LSU quarterback eventual Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. He nearly had another against Missouri in the end zone, but it slipped out of his hands. If Prince can fill out his long frame and become more physical against the run, you’ll see him playing on Sundays.
3. Jonathan Mingo, WR
After losing superstar receivers A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf, the Ole Miss offense saw five freshmen take snaps at wide receiver last season. Of those five, Mingo recorded the most catches with 12 for 172 yards. Had the Rebels run a more modern offense in 2019, have no doubt Mingo could have caught 40 or more balls. We’ve seen what he can do on the blocking front; now’ we’ll finally get to see his size and speed on display in a high-octane offense. The screen pass was Laquon Treadwell’s calling card, but Phil Longo and Rich Rodriguez almost never used it in their offenses. This play is a must in 2020, as it’s a high-percentage pass that develops tempo for the quarterback, and keeps defensive backs on their toes. Mingo has the skill set to find openings from the screen. He can also go up for jump balls in the red zone. Look for all of the young receivers to make huge strides this year.
4. Jay Stanley, S
Originally recruited as a wide receiver, depth issues resulted in Stanley playing in nine games on defense last season. He’s already 6-foot-2 and 223 pounds, and he’ll be competing for the starting safety position left vacant by Jalen Julius. In high school, Stanley made countless plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. He can be used on the blitz, and he possesses an outstanding attribute in a defender – physicality. Stanley likes to get into the mix and lower his shoulder. Defensive coordinator DJ Durkin ran several schemes in the past. Considering his size and ability as a run stopper, one could see him playing some snaps at linebacker in a 3-4 setup.
5. Nick Broeker, T
Broeker was a star in both football and basketball in high school. Despite a late push by Ohio State in the recruitment process, Broeker headed south to become the next big left tackle for Ole Miss. He may not be as hyped up as Michael Oher, Laremy Tunsil, or Greg Little, but Broeker showed he can be a force. He appeared in 11 games in 2019. His fast footwork will help against speedy SEC defensive ends. His 300-pound frame will pave the way for Ealy and Conner as well.