The Ole Miss Rebels don’t pump out a plethora of pro talent each year, but have certainly had their share of elite talent over the past decade. Current stars like Greg Hardy, Mike Wallace, Patrick Willis and Eli Manning are considered some of the best in the NFL at their respective positions, and all tore it up at Vaught-Hemingway. Granted, with the very impressive recruiting coach Hugh Freeze and co. have done the past few years, the Rebels will make their presence felt in the NFL Draft these next few years.
So who are the top pro prospects for the Rebels in 2014? We’ll start with offense, though unfortunately only discuss prospects eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft, so I can’t gush about guys like WR Laquon Treadwell and OT Laremy Tunsil, two potential top-10 picks in the ’16 Draft.
It’s hard to start anywhere on offense other than senior QB Bo Wallace, who’s seen his stock steadily rise the past two years. Wallace has good size (6-foot 4, 215-pounds), decent-enough mobility (745 rushing yards and 14 TDs last two seasons) and a good arm (6,340 yards, 40/27 TD to INT ratio, 64%). His decision-making has been his crux the past two years, as 27 INTs is simply not good, though he did improve from 17 in ’12 to 10 in ’13. Plus, he’s been dealing with a patch-work offensive line and a nagging shoulder injury in his throwing arm.
Entering his third season as QB1, he’ll have the best weapons he’s ever played with (sans Donte Moncrief) and a clean bill of health, so this is the year for him to jump up draft boards. If the Rebels win 10 games and Wallace has a stat line close to 3,500 yards, 66% and 25/5, have no doubt he’ll be considered one of the top senior QBs in the ’15 Draft.
At running back, the Rebels have two exciting juniors in I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton. Neither have ever come close to carrying a full load, so while they haven’t put up huge numbers, they’re also nice and low on mileage, something NFL scouts closely monitor. Both are big play threats, evidenced by Mathers’ 5.9 YPC and Walton’s reported 4.37 40-time. If you don’t believe me, check out Mathers’ 96-yard run in the spring game against a very strong starting Rebel defense, or Walton’s 100-yard kick return for a TD against Texas in ’12. This fall they’ll have the biggest opportunities of their young careers, and both could really boost their draft stock if they play up to their potential.
Up front, the Rebels have two intriguing prospects in guards Justin Bell and Aaron Morris. Bell, a junior, was arguably the most consistent presence on the interior for the Rebs offensive line in ’13, when they needed a power presence due to Morris going down with a season-ending injury in week 1. Bell is under-the-radar by most pundits and draftniks, but is one of the best power-run blocking guards in the country. He’ll need to drop a couple of his 352-pounds to improve his footwork and mobility to play in multiple schemes at the next level, but I like the raw package.
Morris has the highest upside on the interior of the line, but saw his stock take a hit due to his torn ACL at the start of last year. He has very good feet and plays with a good base but tends to bend more at the waist than the knees. He’s a powerful player with tremendous size (6-foot 5, 345-pounds) and strength who could potentially move to RT at the next level. His stock will be determined by how well he’s recovered from his injury and whether he can get back to where he was in ’12, when he was a regular candidate for SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week.