Coach: David Cutcliffe
23-13-0, 3.1 years
2001 Record: 7-4
at Auburn LOST 21-27
at Kentucky WON 42-31
at Arkansas State WON 35-17
at Louisiana State WON 35-24
at Mississippi State LOST 28-36

2001 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

In addition to being Eli's roommate, Doug Zeigler is also one of his favorite targets. - (DM, photo/J.D. Johnson)
2002 Outlook

The pass-catch combinations of quarterback Eli Manning and his receivers are the strength of the 2002 Ole Miss team. Manning has already set 17 school records in his first season as a starter. Did anyone honestly think with that name he was going to be a flop? Get real. His route runners catching the darts are extra special as well as plentiful. Armstead, Collins, Flowers, and Zeigler give the Rebels one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the league. Speaking of Zeigler, he came to Oxford as a quarterback and was moved to tight end and is Eli's roommate in addition to being one of his favorite targets. Keep an eye on this position as it could pay large dividends for the Rebel offensive. There are some questions in the running game with Joe Gunn being history, which equates to limited experience among the candidates at tailback. Apparently, nobody really stepped up to take sole command of the position heading into the fall, so the battle should continue with depth being a plus. The defense still has left coaches wondering after the spring game, where the offenses rolled up over 700 yards of offense and 70 points. One can sense the disappointment as the Ole Miss defense has a long way to go before even pondering the thoughts of a run at a bowl game or SEC title. Going back to last fall, the Rebels finished last in the SEC and 105th in the nation in rushing defense, keeping the heat packing offense off the field. Coaches are flirting with new alignments and position switches in an attempt to patch the holes. The defensive front wall needs to get bigger and stronger, that is the bottom line. The spring did not yield any good news for their problems up front. The top priority is getting the new defensive system under a new coach operating. The first six games should be interesting. Most of them are winnable minus a home date with Florida and a road trip to Lubbock. If the defense under new coordinator Chuck Driesbach can find the time to gel before the first half of the season is over, Eli and company won't be sitting at home for the holidays feeling snubbed by the bowls much like last winter. The offense and defense are equivalent to night and day, so don't be surprised upon witnessing another 7-overtime offensive struggle in 2002. Low scoring affairs do not seem to be in store for the Rebel forces. No complaints here, this is going to be an exciting team to watch.

Projected 2002 record: 7-6

QB - 5 DL - 2
RB - 3 LB - 3.5
WR - 4.5 DB - 3
OL - 4 ..

Passing: Eli Manning, 259-408-9, 2948 Yards, 31 TD's

Rushing: Robert Williams, 42 att., 200 yds., 1 TD

Receiving: Chris Collins, 54 rec., 692 yds., 6 TD's

Scoring: Jonathan Nichols, 3 FG, 47 PAT, 56 pts.

Punting: Cody Ridgeway, 48 punts, 38.8 avg.

Kicking: Jonathan Nichols, 3-6 FG, 47-49 PAT, 56 pts.

Tackles: Eddie Strong, 105 tot., 52 solo

Sacks: L.P. Spence, 5 sacks

Interceptions: Matt Grier, 2 for 7 yards

Kickoff returns: Jason Armstead, 19 ret., 27.6 avg.

Punt returns: Jason Armstead, 22 ret., 8.9 avg.


OFFENSE: Charles Stackhouse-FB, Joe Gunn-RB, Omar Rayford-WR, Jamie Armstrong-W, Terrence Metcalf-OT
DEFENSE: Anthony Sims-DT, Kenny Jackson-DT, Justin Coleman-CB, Syniker Taylor-CB

By: University of Mississippi, Official Athletic Site

Offensive starters the Rebels must replace this spring include All-America left tackle Terrence Metcalf, running backs Joe Gunn and Charles Stackhouse, and wide receiver Jamie Armstrong. Metcalf anchored an offensive line which allowed the fewest quarterback sacks in the SEC (10) last season. Gunn ended his career ranked second on the Ole Miss career list for rushing yards with 2,749 and Stackhouse was considered one of the SEC's top blocking fullbacks. Armstrong ranked second on the team in receiving last year with 40 catches, which gave him 71 in his career. Returning starters include quarterback Eli Manning, who set or tied 17 school records last year in his first season as a starter; wide receiver Chris Collins, who led the team with 54 receptions; tight end Doug Zeigler, tackle Belton Johnson, and guards Doug Buckles and Marcus Johnson. "Offensively, I think depth and competition is once again the key," Cutcliffe said. "What I see in most positions, outside of offensive line and quarterback, is we have quite a few people competing for playing time who have already played a good bit for us. If you look at our wide receiving corps, there is competition among guys who have played. At tight end and running back, there is competition among guys who have played." There are also some newcomers on offense who could have an impact. One is running back Ronald McClendon, rated by one national recruiting service as the nation's top junior college prospect, who enrolled in January. The Rebels also return a couple of redshirt freshmen at running back, plus three redshirt freshmen at wide receiver. "What I am most interested in this spring is to see our young offensive lineman," Cutcliffe said. "Not only did we redshirt five freshmen, we also redshirted Justin Sawyer, who played tight end before we moved him to center, and he's back in the mix again. How those people respond will weigh heavily on what we think we're going to be as far as being successful coming out of spring practice. "I want to see Tre' Stallings, Chris Spencer, Ryan Jones, Bobby Harris, and Tony Bonds, as well as Justin Sawyer, get a lot of snaps this spring. Those are six guys that we didn't have available a year ago who can impact our offensive line depth." Claxton, as a returning all-conference performer, is expected to be the leader of the pack in the offensive line, while Belton Johnson is back for his third year as a starter up front. "Marcus Johnson and Doug Buckles are two young players who have shown great flashes and have a lot of starts under their belt," Cutcliffe added. "At tight end, we feel great about having senior Doug Zeigler back. That's one of those positions where the people competing for playing time have already played extensively in ball games. Having guys who have played before doesn't just help you on offense and defense, but it also really helps in the kicking game. We should benefit from all of this." Cutcliffe said Manning is going to be challenged to take his game to another level this spring. "A lot of people don't realize how much more effective you can be after having 11 games as a starter under your belt," Cutcliffe said. "His knowledge of the offense improves, his decision making should be quicker, and he should help us at the line of scrimmage. There's a lot of things that he'll benefit from coming back as a veteran." According to Cutcliffe, one of the real challenges is when you look behind Manning and realize the Rebels don't have anybody with any playing experience per se. Senior David Morris has one start in his career and has played sparingly in a few other games. "David must continue to work hard and stay ready," Cutcliffe said. "He did a great job as a No. 2 man last year in making every day in practice his game. Micheal Spurlock is going to get the bulk of the third team work and get a lot of snaps since Seth Smith is involved in baseball. Seth will get some work, but Spurlock will have to accelerate his learning. He has to take advantage of the repetitions he'll get this spring. "Quarterback is a position where you can't take for granted that you have all the answers. It's easy to get comfortable when you have an Eli Manning. If we should suffer the unfortunate loss of a starter like Eli, the biggest issue would be which direction our offense would go and how we would develop as an offensive football team." With two veterans like seniors Toward Sanford and Robert Williams returning, Cutcliffe expects them to be the leaders at running back, which has all the makings of being an interesting position this spring. "At tailback, you have a log jam," Cutcliffe said. "You start with Robert Williams. We have Tremaine Turner, who we redshirted a year ago. We hope Tremaine is healthy and ready to compete. Then you have Vashon Pearson and Ronald McLendon right there as well. That's solid competition. "At fullback, we have Toward Sanford, Rick Razzano and Brandon Jacobs, who redshirted a year ago. Brandon is up to 230 or 235 pounds and looks like a different guy. I'm anxious to see how he responds. Turner can also play fullback for us as well as tailback. It will be interesting to see how his spring goes from a health standpoint." At wide receiver, the Rebels return a lot of people that have caught a lot of balls, but Cutcliffe says it's going to be critical to get people in the right places. "Chris Collins, Jason Armstead and Bill Flowers, in particular, caught a lot of balls and made big plays for us last year. Trey Fryfogle and Ross Barkley have played. The three redshirts -- Mike Espy, Ratavious Biddle and Mario Hill -- are all very talented young men. Kerry Johnson has made the move from the secondary to a more natural position for him. He is a tall and rangy kid who has great endurance and speed. I am anxious to see how he competes out there this spring."


Returning Starters in Bold
QB Eli Manning-Jr David Morris-Sr
FB Toward Sanford-Sr Rick Razzano-So
RB Robert Williams-Sr Tremaine Turner-Jr
WR Chris Collins-Jr Bill Flowers-So
WR Jason Armstead-Sr Taye Biddle-Fr
TE Doug Zeigler-Sr Bo Hartsfield-So
OT Tre' Stallings-Fr Bobby Harris-Fr
OG Doug Buckles-So James Campbell-So
C Ben Claxton-Sr Justin Sawyer-Jr
OG Marcus Johnson-So Chris Spencer-Fr
OT Belton Johnson-Sr Cliff Woodruff-Jr
K Jonathan Nichols-So Lee Rogers-Jr



By: University of Mississippi, Official Athletic Site

Defensively, Ole Miss must replace four starters - tackles Kenny Jackson and Anthony Sims and cornerbacks Syniker Taylor and Justin Coleman. The top priority for head coach David Cutcliffe's fourth Ole Miss spring football practice is installing a new defensive system brought in by new defensive coordinator Chuck Driesbach. "Having to learn a new defensive system and getting Coach Driesbach's system installed is a priority," Cutcliffe said. "The thing we'll do is not be totally focused on scheme as much as getting our players to learn and understand what's expected of them at their position." When it comes to defense, competition depth at almost every position exists, primarily because a number of returning players have played a lot of snaps. "For the last couple of years, we started a lot of different people at different places, and there is some good and bad in that," Cutcliffe said. "We have some competition and we have competition where the guys have played." Some of that competition is quickly evident when looking at the Rebel defensive ends and tackles. "We lost the two big guys inside (Sims and Jackson), but at the end position we return Charlie Anderson, Josh Cooper, Germaine Landrum and Cory Robinson. Inside we have Jesse Mitchell, Yahrek Johnson and Daniel Booth who have all played." Cutcliffe is also excited about having three redshirt freshmen providing additional competition up front. One of the top returning areas on defense is at linebacker. Strong led the Rebels in tackles last season with105 after having missed the 2000 season with a foot injury. Goethie and Spence are expected to be at full strength by next fall. "We also have some competition at the linebacker spot," Cutcliffe added, noting that 10 different linebackers have earned letters with the Rebels. Replacing Taylor and Coleman at cornerback is a major priority this spring when it comes to the secondary. Seniors Desmon Johnson and Chris Knight are two veterans back at corner. "Desmon Johnson has probably played more than anyone else at the corner position," Cutcliffe said. "We also have some new faces there that can compete. Tavarus Horne, who was redshirted a year ago after playing as a true freshman, could be a factor. Travis Johnson and Bryant Thomas could be as well. Wes Scott is returning after redshirting and he has a chance to get involved in our depth either as a safety or as a corner. We expect to find help out of that group. "We need to get our play-makers on the field in the secondary," Cutcliffe said. "I'm interested in seeing our safeties get involved in the run game. That's where Matt Grier, Eric Oliver, Kelvin Robinson, Von Hutchins, Keith Houston and Jeremy Ruffin need to get involved. There are several guys that I am interested in seeing become physical football players and help us defend the run. It's unfortunate that two of our safeties, Marcus Woodson and Travis Blanchard, will miss spring practice due to injuries."


Returning Starters in Bold
DE Charlie Anderson-Jr Germain Landrum-Sr
DT Yahrek Johnson-Sr McKinley Boykin-Fr
N Jesse Mitchell-Jr Daniel Booth-So
DE Josh Cooper-Jr Cory Robinson-So
MLB Eddie Strong-Sr Lanier Goethie-Sr
SLB L.P. Spence-Jr Ryan Hamilton-Sr
CB Desmon Johnson-Sr Tavarus Horne-So
CB Chris Knight-Sr Bryant Thomas-Fr
SS Matt Grier-Sr Kelvin Robinson-Fr
FS Eric Oliver-So Jeremy Ruffin-Fr
WS Von Hutchins-Jr Wes Scott-Jr
P Cody Ridgeway-So Wesley Bryan-So
The pass-catch combinations of quarterback Eli Manning and his receivers are the strength of the 2002 Ole Miss team. - (AP Photo/Dave Martin)