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Ole Miss raises Heisman hype for McAllister

The rumbling you hear in the distance isn’t a thunderstormapproaching from the southwest. Seated at my computer terminal inBrookhaven, the tub-thumping, drum-beating sound is coming from thenorthern end of the Magnolia State, in the vicinity of Oxford, theUniversity of Mississippi and Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium.

Publicity drums are beating for Deuce McAllister, the Ole Missrunning back with Heisman Trophy potential. “Deuce For Heisman,” isa popular bumper sticker on vehicles leased, owned and driven byOle Miss faithful. Certainly, Deuce is a Cadillac when it comes tocollege running backs.

How far his Heisman Trophy aspirations climb remains to be seen.Standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 220 pounds, McAllister looks like aHeisman candidate in street clothes. Dress him in red and blueuniform and he might be mistaken for Superman.

McAllister had an impressive junior year, leading the Rebels toan 8-4 season, including a thrilling Independence Bowl victory overOklahoma’s Sooners. Combing great power with speed, McAllister had239 all-purpose yards versus Oklahoma. His 80-yard TD run set anIndependence Bowl record.

So what can Deuce do for an encore?

Playing in the Southeastern Conference is no stroll in park.Rushing for over 1,000 yards in one season is a greataccomplishment because the SEC is recognized for its brutaldefense.

Thankfully, McAllister is surrounded by a strong supportingcast. Rebel quarterback Romaro Miller is one of the best passers inthe league. Miller can scramble, too, taking more pressure offMcAllister.

What the Rebels need the most is a nine or 10-win season. That’sthe hard part.

Ole Miss needs national ranking and not just the Top 25.Reaching the Top Ten in the polls would focus more attention onMcAllister and the Heisman hype.

Let’s take a look at the Ole Miss schedule for 2000. The Rebelsopen with back-to-back home dates against Tulane Sept. 2 andAuburn, Sept. 9. Auburn, featuring the return of Coach TommyTuberville, should be a sellout.

Ole Miss visits Vanderbilt Sept. 16 and enjoys an open dateSept. 23. The Rebels prepare for an invasion of Kentucky Wildcatson Sept. 30. Potentially, the Rebels could be 5-0 after hostingArkansas State on Oct. 7.

What’s next is a major encounter with Alabama’s Crimson Tide onOct. 14, at Tuscaloosa. Kickoff time will be determined by thetelevision moguls. This game should have major implications in theSEC West.

After Alabama, the Rebels return home for an open date.Homecoming arrives Oct. 28, with Nevada-Las Vegas. Considering theletdown after the Alabama game, it could be interesting.

The Rebels face a tough Nov. 4 date at Arkansas in Fayetteville.The Razorbacks are SEC West title contenders, too.

After wrestling with the Hogs, Ole Miss is home to dangerous LSUon Nov. 11. The Rebels play at Georgia on Nov. 18, anotherdifficult road assignment. Just five days later, they hostMississippi State on the Thanksgiving night ESPN game.

Can the Rebels win 10 of 11 regular season games?

Probably not. Two or three losses should keep Ole Miss in theTop 15. Certainly, McAllister will absorb a lot of physicalpunishment this season. Hopefully, he can endure the SEC wars.

Looking ahead, the Rebels return four starters on offensebesides McAllister and Miller. They are running back Joe Gunn,center Ben Claxton (6-4, 290) and guards Terence Metcalf (6-3, 300)and Keydrick Vincent (6-5, 350).

Obviously, the Rebels have some large folks up front. They needsome immediate help at offensive tackle and tight end. EvenSuperman needs some big, strong linemen blocking for him once in awhile.

Offensive tackles Belton Johnson, John Keith and Matt Koon eachhave one letter to their credit and not much experience. It’s veryunusual for a freshman offensive lineman to arrive on campus andearn a starting job. Highly touted Doug Buckles (6-5, 275) ofMadison Central could be an exception to the redshirt rule.

Jason Youngs, (6-7, 285) a junior college signee from St.Mary’s, Ohio, and College of the Canyons in Santa Cerrida, Calif.,is being counted on to provide immediate help in the offensiveline.

On defense, the Rebels must replace six starters. That’s theother side of the football. Hopefully they won’t need McAllister atlinebacker.