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Insider

Tide schedule preview: Ole Miss

6/19/2012

The rundown

2011 overall record: 2-10

2011 conference record: 0-8

Returning starters: Offense: 8; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners: RB Jeff Scott, WR Ja-Mes Logan, WR Donte Moncrief, WR Randall Mackey, C Evan Swindall, DE C.J. Johnson, LB Mike Marry

Key losses: RB Brandon Bolden, OT Bobby Massie, OT Bradley Sowell, DE Kentrell Lockett, DE Wayne Dorsey, S Damien Jackson

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Jeff Scott* (529 yards)

Passing: Randall Mackey* (1,112 yards)

Receiving: Donte Moncrief* (454 yards)

Tackles: Mike Marry* (81)

Sacks: Wayne Dorsey (3)

Interceptions: Charles Sawyer* (4)

What they're saying:

"We have a long way to go, but I feel like we have the weapons to get back to where we were, if not better. When I got here, there were a handful of players that dominated and were difference makers. I feel like we have a lot more difference makers now. Even though they're young, they play hard. That's going to get us back to where we were," Ole Miss linebacker Mike Marry told ESPN SEC blogger Edward Aschoff in May.

Three things to watch:

1. Who is under center?: It very well could be until Week 5 against Bama when Ole Miss has a true starter at quarterback. Then again, with two candidates with limited experience -- Bo Wallace and Barry Burnetti -- the Tide could see both on Sept. 29. Wallace, a junior college transfer, is a big kid at 6-foot-5 and can stand and deliver the ball well in the pocket. He has a little bit of mobility to him as well. The same goes for Burnetti, albeit in a different frame at 6-foot. Burnetti appeared in five games last year, completing 19-of-35 passes for 144 yards and no touchdowns. Whoever earns the job will have to deal with the growing pains of coach Hugh Freeze's new spread offense.

2. Depth at wide receiver: That said, there will be a few weapons to throw the ball to in the open field. Three of the top four finishers in receptions return from last year's squad in Ja-Mes Logan, Jeff Scott and Donte Moncrief. Throw in an unknown athlete in Randall Mackey, and the Rebels might be able to stretch a few defenses thin. Mackey is the one to watch here. We saw flashes of athleticism at quarterback last year that could translate well into the slot. His ability to run the ball will be a tool at Freeze's disposal as well, lining him up all over the field.

3. Questions on the offensive line: If the offensive line can't come together for the Rebs, all this conversation could be for nothing. With a new quarterback and a new offensive scheme, the line will be under tremendous pressure. Less than a year ago, this unit finished 101st in the country in sacks allowed and 120th in tackles for loss allowed. How players like center Evan Swindall rebound from last year's disappointment and hold down the front will be key in Ole Miss being competitive in 2012.