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Five Ole Miss players who could hurt Alabama

The 24-hour period following Alabama’s 63-14 victory over Southern Miss has passed, and now the Crimson Tide can turn its attention to a much more anticipated matchup. No. 1 Alabama (4-0, 1-0 in the SEC) will host No. 12 Ole Miss (3-0) on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The Tide opened as a 17.5-point favorite over the Rebels but must still be wary of a Lane Kiffin attack that leads the nation in total offense (638.3 yards per game) as well as scoring (52.7 points per game).

Last year, Alabama survived a 63-48 slugfest in Oxford, Miss., as Ole Miss piled up 647 yards of offense and 31 first downs. With the Rebels looking just as deadly this year, here are five players who could hurt the Tide in this week’s matchup.

Matt Corral, QB 

There isn’t a more dangerous player in college football than the one who will be lining up behind center for Ole Miss on Saturday. Through three games, Matt Corral has completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 1,006 yards and nine touchdowns without an interception. The current Heisman Trophy favorite ranks in the top 10 nationally in passing yards per game (335.3), yards per attempt (10.5), passer rating (187.71) and has also added 158 yards and five more scores on the ground.

During last year’s loss to Alabama, Corral torched the Tide for 365 yards and two touchdowns on 21 of 28 passing while adding another 40 yards with his feet. After throwing for 14 interceptions last season, the junior has yet to turn the ball over this year. However, this is his hardest test of the season as Ole Miss’ first three opponents — Louisville, Austin Peay and Tulane — leave a lot to be desired on defense.

Dontario Drummond, WR  

Last season, Ole Miss’ offense ran through receiver Elijah Moore, who led the nation averaging 149.1 receiving yards per game. With the second-round pick now catching passes for the New York Jets, there was plenty of questions as to how the Rebels were going to fill his void this season.

Through three games, that answer appears to be fifth-year senior Dontario Drummond, who leads the SEC averaging 113 receiving yards per game. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound receiver has started all three games in the slot for the Rebels, recording at least five receptions in each outing while racking up 20 total catches. According to Pro Football Focus, Corral has posted a perfect 158.3 NFL passer rating on the 27 balls he’s thrown Drummond’s way so far this season.

Drummond’s emergence comes as he took advantage of the NCAA’s blanket eligibility waiver, allowing him to return for a fifth season. Last year, he recorded 25 receptions for 417 yards and seven touchdowns but tallied just one catch for 11 yards during the game against Alabama.

Three-headed monster at RB

Ole Miss ranks No. 4 in the nation averaging 298.67 yards per game on the ground. It’s easy to see why as the Rebels offense features three talented running backs in addition to Corral.

Junior Jerrion Ealy leads the way, rushing for 188 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries while also adding six receptions for 78 yards. Ole Miss has also seen the emergence of sophomore Henry Parrish Jr., who leads all Rebels backs averaging 7.04 yards per carry while rushing for 176 yards and a touchdown in addition to six receptions for 64 yards. Junior Snoop Conner, 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, offers a nice short-yardage option and is averaging 5.68 yards per carry while recording 125 yards and three touchdowns.

Ealy and Conner both reached the century mark during last year’s game against Alabama as Conner ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries while Early had 120 yards and a pair of scores on 19 carries.

Alabama held Southern Miss to 82 yards on 33 carries over the weekend but was shredded by Florida’s running game the week before as the Gators piled up 245 yards and four touchdowns on 43 attempts.

Jeremey James, RT 

While Ole Miss’ playmakers generate the bulk of the attention, its big uglies have done a nice job clearing the way. Redshirt sophomore right tackle Jeremey James is coming off of a solid outing against Tulane that saw him earn SEC Co-Offensive Lineman of the Week honors while helping pave the way for a Rebels offense that posted 707 totals yards and tied the SEC single-game record with 41 first downs.

According to PFF, James is Ole Miss’ highest-rated pass blocker with an 81.4 grade. The 6-foot-5, 305-pounder has allowed just one quarterback pressure over 125 pass-blocking snaps while starting all three games at right tackle.

James will put that protection to the test this week as he goes up against one of the nation’s deadliest pass rushers in Alabama outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr.

Sam Williams, EDGE 

Ole Miss has a dangerous edge rusher of its own in fifth-year senior Sam Williams, who has posted a team-high four sacks through three games. According to PFF, the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Montgomery, Ala., native has recorded 15 pressures and has registered a 10.7 pass-rush-proficiency score which ranks third in the SEC and No. 11 nationally among players with at least 75 pass-rushing snaps this season.

Williams is back for his fifth season after taking advantage of the NCAA’s eligibility waiver this year. Last year, he led the Rebels with four sacks and eight tackles for a loss over 10 games. One of those sacks came during last season’s game against Alabama.

Williams is a versatile defender who can play with his hand on the ground as a defensive end or as a stand-up outside linebacker. He’ll be crucial in chasing down Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who boasts a 127.8 NFL passer rating on his 131 pressured dropbacks through three games.

le Miss quarterback Matt Corral (2) is tackled by Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Photo | USA Today
le Miss quarterback Matt Corral (2) is tackled by Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Photo | USA Today