Ole Miss Game 1 – NOTES

Ole Miss Rebels (0-0, 0-0 SEC) vs. South Alabama Jaguars (0-0, 0-0 Sun Belt)
Date: Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017
Time: 6:30 p.m. CT
Location: Oxford, Miss.
Venue: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (64,038)|
     Surface: Natural grass
Series: First meeting
     In Oxford: First meeting
Live Stats: OleMissSports.com
Live Audio: OleMissSports.com
Twitter Updates: @OleMissFB
Television: ESPU
Anish Shroff, Play-by-Play
Ahmad Brooks, Analyst
Roddy Jones, Sideline
Satellite Radio: Sirius 112, XM 191

WHAT TO WATCH FOR …

• This game will kick off the 123rd season of football at Ole Miss and the first under head coach Matt Luke … The Rebels boast an all-time record of 660-511-35 (.562 winning percentage) … Ole Miss did not field teams in 1897 due to an epidemic of yellow fever, and also in 1943 when football was abolished at all Mississippi state-supported institutions by the Board of Trustees.

• The Rebels are 90-27-5 (.764 winning percentage) in season openers and have taken 17 of the last 21.

• This is the first meeting between Ole Miss and South Alabama … The Rebels are 31-1-2 all time against the current members of the Sun Belt.

• Matt Luke is in his 10th season at Ole Miss but first season at the helm, taking the reins of his alma mater as the 38th head coach in program history … Ole Miss’ last four head coaches have been victorious in their first game on the Rebel sideline … Of those that have coached since joining the SEC in 1933, the Rebels are 10-4 in their debut.

• Ole Miss returns five starters and 28 lettermen from last year’s offense that led the SEC in passing and ranked top four in scoring and total offense … The Rebels return six starters and 28 lettermen from last year’s defense.

• Preseason All-American DE Marquis Haynes enters his senior year ranked third in school history with 24.5 career sacks and fourth with 36.5 TFLs.

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OLE MISS HEAD COACH MATT LUKE 

Matt Luke (Ole Miss, 2000) is in his 10th season at Ole Miss but first season at the helm, taking the reins of his alma mater as the 38th head coach in program history. He was born a Rebel as his family has ties to Ole Miss that span three generations. During his 23 years as a player and coach at the collegiate level, Luke has risen through the ranks while learning from a number of successful veteran coaches. He has worked alongside national champion Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe and former Ole Miss head coach Tommy Tuberville, among others. On the field, he has mentored 17 all-league selections as well as All-Americans and first-round draft picks Laremy Tunsil and Laken Tomlinson. Luke, a four-year center for the Rebels (1995-98), spent the past five seasons as the team’s co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. During his first stop in Oxford (2002-05), he served four seasons coaching the Ole Miss tight ends and offensive line under Cutcliffe.

SOUTH ALABAMA HEAD COACH JOEY JONES

Joey Jones (Alabama, 1989) enters his ninth season as South Alabama head coach. He has guided the Jaguars to a 48-42 (.533) record as the only coach in the history of the program. Under the direction of Jones, South Alabama has played in two bowl games, while earning bowl eligibility in three of the past four seasons. Over the last five years, Jones has coached 43 All-Sun Belt Conference performers as well as 23 players who have gone on to play professionally. After playing four seasons at Alabama, including the 1983 season as an All-SEC wide receiver, Jones began his coaching career in the high school ranks. He spent nearly two decades at that level before becoming the head coach at Division III startup program Birmingham-Southern. Jones led the team in its inaugural season in 2007 until he took the title of South Alabama’s first head coach for the 2008 campaign.

SOUTH ALABAMA SCOUTING REPORT

South Alabama is coming off a 6-7 record in 2016, which included an appearance in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl. The Jaguars began last season by taking down Mississippi State on the road 21-20. They also upset No. 19 San Diego State at home, their first victory over a nationally-ranked opponent in program history. South Alabama returns 12 starters for 2017, including starting quarterback Dallas Davis. As a sophomore, Davis threw for 2,706 yards and 11 touchdowns, while adding 245 yards on the ground as well. With the Jaguars losing their top four wide receivers in terms of yardage, Davis will have to find some new targets this year. Xavier Johnson, the team’s leading rusher in 2016, is back after running for 831 yards and 10 touchdowns a season ago. On defense, South Alabama’s leading tackler returns; Darrell Songy posted 100 tackles, including 7.5 TFLs last year.

REBELS VERSUS SUN BELT OPPONENTS

• Ole Miss has a 31-1-2 record against current members of the Sun Belt Conference.

• The Rebels’ last game against a Sun Belt team was a 37-27 victory over Georgia Southern last year.

• The Rebels vs. current Sun Belt teams:

School W-L Pct. Last Game

Arkansas State 20-1-2 .913 2004

Georgia Southern 1-0 1.000 2016

Idaho 1-0 1.000 2013

Louisiana-Lafayette 4-0 1.000 2014

Louisiana-Monroe 3-0 1.000 2008

New Mexico State 1-0 1.000 2015

Troy 1-0 1.000 2013

REBEL-JAGUAR CONNECTIONS

• Ole Miss LB DeMarquis Gates and DB Montrell Custis were teammates with South Alabama DE Chris Henderson at Lovejoy HS in Hampton, Ga.

• Ole Miss DE Charles Wiley and South Alabama DL Tyree Turner were teammates at Stockbridge HS in Stockbridge, Ga.

• Ole Miss WR D.K. Metcalf and South Alabama CB Devin Rockette were teammates at Oxford HS in Oxford, Miss.

• Ole Miss defensive line coach Freddie Roach served as USA’s defensive ends and linebackers coach from 2013-14.

• South Alabama wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Tyler Siskey spent the 2012 season as Ole Miss’ coordinator of recruiting development.

• South Alabama defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Kane Wommack served as a graduate assistant coach at Ole Miss from 2012-13.

LUKE FAMILY LEGACY

Longtime Rebel Matt Luke, making his head coaching debut in this game, bleeds Red and Blue as deeply as anyone. A four-year center for the Rebels (1995-98), he is entering his 10th year overall as a member of the Ole Miss coaching staff. He grew up a Rebel fan thanks to his father, Tommy, who was a defensive back at Ole Miss in the 1960s and his brother, Tom, who quarterbacked the Rebels from 1989-91. Tom is also on the Ole Miss football staff as assistant athletics director for player development, while Tom’s son, Cale, is a senior wide receiver on the squad. Matt is married to the former Ashley Grantham of Oxford, and they have two sons, Harrison and Cooper.

COACHING DEBUTS

Ole Miss’ last four head coaches have been victorious in their first game on the Rebel sideline. Of those that have coached since joining the SEC in 1933, the Rebels are 10-4 in their debut.

OPENERS

• The Rebels are 90-27-5 (.758 winning percentage) in season openers and have taken 17 of the last 21.

•  Ole Miss is 99-17-5 (.839 winning pct.) in home openers … When playing their home opener in Oxford, the Rebels are 76-10-4 (.867 winning pct.) … Ole Miss has won each of its last five home openers.

•  When the Rebels’ season and home openers are one in the same, Ole Miss is 60-6-3 (.891 winning percentage) … The Rebels have won 16 of the last 19 such openers … The Rebels last opened at home in 2015 (76-3 win over UT Martin).

OLE MISS IN SEPTEMBER

• Ole Miss is 160-85-7 (.649 winning pct.) all-time during the month of September.

• The Rebels are 48-45-1 (.516 winning pct.) in September SEC games.

• Ole Miss is 113-39-6 (.734 winning pct.) all-time versus non-conference opponents during the month.

• Ole Miss is 101-32-3 (.754 winning pct.) in September home games (including home contests played in Memphis and Jackson), including a 76-19-2 (.794 winning percentage) mark in September games played in Oxford.

• The Rebels went 2-2 last season – vs. No. 4 Florida State (L, 34-45), Wofford (W, 38-13), No. 1 Alabama (L, 43-48), No. 11 Georgia (W, 45-14)

WATCH LIST REBELS

Ole Miss players have garnered a bunch of preseason honors this year, including several players tabbed Preseason All-America and Preseason All-SEC by media outlets. The following Rebels have been recognized on watch lists for some of the biggest awards in college football:

• DeMarquis Gates: Butkus Award

• Marquis Haynes: Chuck Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Ted Hendricks Award, Lott IMPACT Trophy

• Greg Little: Outland Trophy

• Javon Patterson: Wuerffel Trophy, AFCA Good Works Team

• Shea Patterson: Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award

• Sean Rawlings: Rimington Trophy

• Gary Wunderlich: Lou Groza Award

FINAL CAMPAIGN FOR SACK-MASTER HAYNES

Preseason All-American DE Marquis Haynes enters his senior year ranked third in school history with 24.5 career sacks and fourth with 36.5 TFLs. He led the Rebels in sacks as a freshman (7.5), sophomore (10.0) and junior (7.0). The Jacksonville, Florida, native is a unanimous preseason All-SEC first-team pick and made watch lists for the Bednarik, Nagurski, Hendricks and Lott IMPACT awards.

GARY “WUNDER-KICK”

After a nearly flawless junior season, K/P Gary Wunderlich enters his senior season as one of the nation’s top placekickers, while also being able to handle punting and kickoff duties from time to time. The Memphis, Tennessee, native led all NCAA kickers with an SEC-record 95.7 field-goal percentage last year, converting 22 of 23 attempts. He enters this season with a streak of 17 straight made field goals, tied with Bryson Rose for the school record and tied for third in SEC history. A Lou Groza Award semifinalist last year, he has been named to the watch list this preseason, as well as to various preseason All-America and All-SEC squads.

NEW BLOOD

• With six offensive starters and five defensive starters gone from last year’s team, the Ole Miss coaches will be looking for younger players to fill some of those big shoes.

• Six of last year’s starters are currently on NFL rosters: WR Quincy Adeboyejo (UFA, Ravens), TE Evan Engram (1st-round pick, Giants), DT D.J. Jones (6th-round pick, 49ers), RB Akeem Judd (UFA, Titans), QB Chad Kelly (7th-round pick, Broncos), WR Damore’ea Stringfellow (UFA, Dolphins) … CB Derrick Jones (6th-round pick, Jets) and CB Carlos Davis (UFA, Rams) are also in the league.

• Record-breaking QB Chad Kelly is now in the NFL, but sophomore QB Shea Patterson gained crucial experience when he started the final three games last season after Kelly went down with a knee injury … In his first game as starter, Patterson led a second-half comeback in a 29-28 win at No. 8 Texas A&M.

• Ole Miss lost three of its top four receivers from 2016 (Engram, Stringfellow, Adeboyejo), but the cupboard is still quite full at receiver with the likes of senior Markell Pack, junior DaMarkus Lodge and sophomores A.J. Brown, Van Jefferson and D.K. Metcalf, among others.

WELCOME BACK

• The following players are returning from injuries or ineligibility last season and are expected to play key roles this fall:

• DB C.J. Moore: Penciled in as the starter at free safety, Moore missed all of 2016 with a torn pectoral.

• RB Eric Swinney: After a redshirt in 2015, missed all of 2016 after a knee injury in the opener vs. Florida State.

• DB Ken Webster: Has been practicing at both CB and FS … Missed all of 2016 after suffering a knee injury in the opener vs. Florida State … Full-time starter at CB in 2015.

• RB Jordan Wilkins: Rushed for 379 yards and four TDs as a sophomore in 2015.

OFFENSIVE NOTES

• Ole Miss returns five starters and 28 lettermen from last year’s offense that led the SEC in passing and ranked top four in scoring and total offense.

• Shea Patterson returns after starting the final three games of his freshman season following Chad Kelly’s (now with Denver Broncos) ACL injury.

• Leading rusher Akeem Judd (826 yards) graduated, leaving senior Jordan Wilkins as the leader of the RB corps … Senior Eugene Brazley and sophomores D’Vaughn Pennamon and Eric Swinney will compete for carries.

• The Rebels have to replace full-time starting WRs Damore’ea Stringfellow (Miami Dolphins) and Quincy Adeboyejo (Baltimore Ravens) who were Nos. 3 and 4 on the team in receiving yards, respectively. last year.

• Top returning WRs are sophomore Van Jefferson (who started every game last year and earned Freshman All-America honors), sophomore A.J. Brown, junior DaMarkus Lodge, senior Markell Pack and sophomore D.K. Metcalf, who combined for 10 TD catches last year.

• Gone is first team All-American and statistically the best tight end in school history Evan Engram (New York Giants) who is the only four-time All-SEC pick in school history and finished his career with 162 receptions, 2,320 receiving yards and 15 TD catches.

• Ole Miss returns four of five starters from last year’s O-line and several others who earned starts and significant snaps throughout the season.

DEFENSIVE NOTES

• The Rebels return six starters and 28 lettermen from last year’s defense.

• All-SEC end Marquis Haynes returns to lead the Landshark Defense … A senior, he ranks third in school history with 24.5 career sacks and fourth with 36.5 tackles for loss.

• Freshman All-American Benito Jones will be a sophomore and returning starter Breeland Speaks a junior, to lead the way on the interior of the defense.

• Senior DeMarquis Gates, who led the team with 76 tackles in 2015 and 79 in 2016, is the lone returning starter at LB and has played on both the inside and outside throughout his career.

• Returning starters at DB include Zedrick Woods (moving from FS to SS) and Myles Hartsfield (moving from rover to CB), a Freshman All-America pick.

• Ole Miss lost four senior cornerbacks from last year, but still return a load of young experience that provides promise for this season, including sophomores Jaylon Jones and Jalen Julius, and senior Ken Webster, a full-time starter in 2015, who returns after injuring his knee against Florida State last year.

SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES

• The kicking game should be a strong point this year with senior returnees Gary Wunderlich at placekicker and Will Gleeson at punter … Both are entering their fourth seasons as full-time starters.

• With the loss of kick/punt returner Carlos Davis (Los Angeles Rams), Ole Miss will look to Jordan Wilkins, Eugene Brazley, Jalen Julius, Tre Nixon, A.J. Brown and Van Jefferson to help fill those shoes.

ODDS AND ENDS

• Ole Miss plays 10 bowl teams from last year, tied for second-most in the country with Duke and South Carolina … Only Notre Dame and Syracuse (11) will play more.

• The Rebels will face South Alabama and California for the first time this year.

• After four years of very little coaching turnover, Ole Miss will break in a new offensive coordinator (Phil Longo), defensive coordinator (Wesley McGriff), linebackers coach (Bradley Dale Peveto), defensive line coach (Fred die Roach), offensive line coach (Jack Bicknell Jr.) and wide receivers coach (Jacob Peeler) this season.

CHUCKY MULLINS COURAGE AWARD

In the spring, senior DE Marquis Haynes became the 27th different Rebel to be awarded the Chucky Mullins Courage Award, which goes to a standout defensive player each year. The award honors the late Chucky Mullins, who had his Ole Miss career come to an end during the 1989 Homecoming game against Vanderbilt when he was paralyzed after making a tackle. After returning to his studies at Ole Miss, Mullins passed away May 6, 1991. Haynes wears the No. 38 jersey in Mullins’ honor this season.

LUKE’S WEEKLY RADIO SHOW ON TUESDAYS

RebTalk, the official weekly radio show of Ole Miss Athletics, is moving to a new day and location for this season. Beginning Aug. 29, RebTalk will be broadcast each Tuesday this fall at Bouré in downtown Oxford from 7-8 p.m. The show, which is hosted by the “Voice of the Rebels” David Kellum and includes special guests, will air live on the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network. Ole Miss Football head coach Matt Luke and select players will join the broadcast each Tuesday throughout the 2017 season. There is no show scheduled for Sept. 19, the Rebels’ bye week.