June 20, 2006
University, MS (CSTV U-WIRE) -- With double sessions just around the corner for the Rebels, the smell of football is starting to creep into Oxford.
The best part about the upcoming season is the amount of newcomers that give reason for all sorts of optimism. Last year the Rebels only scored 13.5 points per game.
At quarterback, the Rebels have nowhere to go but up. Brent Schaeffer comes to Oxford with probably an unfair amount of high expectations. Luckily for Schaeffer, last year's act will be an easy one to follow. Micheal Spurlock, Robert Lane and Ethan Flatt combined for only nine touchdown passes. Schaeffer brings some SEC experience and has already played once in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium as a freshman in 2004 for the Tennessee Vols.
Head coach Ed Orgeron loved what he saw from Schaeffer both at UT and in junior college last year and made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
"There will be no quarterback controversy," Orgeron said.
"I told him he's our quarterback, and we need him. He's a great player, and he really gave a boost to our recruiting class once he signed. You know I really think one of the turning points of getting Brent was when (Dan) Werner signed on with our staff, and getting Kehoe."
Werner brings interesting possibilities to the offense, particularly for former quarterback-turned-tight end Robert Lane .
Werner, who spent 2001-2005 at the University of Miami, loves to use tight ends. He featured the tight end in the passing game and produced great seasons with Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow, Jr. Athletically, Lane may not compare to those two, but he has shown he can run. Against Arkansas, he had four catches for 116 yards including a 50-yard reception after only learning the position for a few weeks.
"Robert Lane is going to be a tremendous football player for us," Orgeron said. "He's tough, he's competitive, he can catch the football and he can do something with it after he catches it."
A year ago, Mico McSwain emerged as the team's top rusher, coming out of nowhere to set the Ole Miss freshman rushing record with 696 yards. However, a big part of the Rebels' offensive woes was they did not have the type of running back to get the "tough yards."
The Rebels were awful in short yardage situations, but junior transfer BenJarvus Green-Ellis should change that. As a sophomore at Indiana, he rushed for 794 yards in the Big-10. Another option will be Cordera Eason, a signee from Meridian. At 6-feet, 240 pounds, Eason could figure into the mix as the physical style runner the Rebels lacked last season.
The biggest question mark for the Rebels is wide receiver. The Rebels graduated their top three contributors in Mike Espy, Mario Hill and Taye Biddle. Carlos Suggs is the only returning player to have caught a pass in a game. Freshman Marshay Green ended the spring as the No. 1 flanker, while sophomore Burnell Wallace ended up as the starting split end. When signee Allen Walker gets to Oxford, he figures to fight his way into the mix at receiver. Only time will tell if Werner is a miracle worker, but after one of the worst offensive seasons in school history, there's nowhere to go but up.
"I'm really pleased with the progress that Dan Werner made with the offense," Orgeron said. "He brought a lot of organization and a new offense that is really going to help us more in our two back sets and in the power-run game."
(C) 2006 Daily Mississippian via CSTV U-WIRE