We don’t often get the opinion of our rival fans around these parts, so we decided to talk with Juco All-American from Red Cup Rebellion, SBNation’s Ole Miss blog about this weekend’s game with the Rebels, or whatever they call themselves. We asked them five questions about the game, and answered five for them in return.
Ole Miss was historically bad last season, but have shown a lot of improvement so far this year. What would you say is the biggest difference between this year’s team and last? Are they really improved, or has a weak schedule masked their faults?
We’re certainly improved. Louisiana Tech blew us out last year. Yeah… it was bad.
We’re likely not as improved as we appear since our three wins so far are over Central Arkansas, UTEP and Tulane. Still, it’s encouraging to see us beating up on those teams instead of squeaking out nail-biters like in years past. The offense is clicking, and the defense is succeeding considering the talent they have.
I think the biggest difference is likely offensive scheming. We’re running a no-huddle spread attack where we try to take advantage of mismatches and get our playmakers the ball in space. Last year, we were running a pro-style offensive set where we tried to simply match up our athletes versus our opponents. That obviously only works if you have more talent than your opponents. We often don’t, so the fans are excited about our playcalling moving forward. We’re not in a place yet where we can compete against Bama or the like, but we will put ourselves in position to have a chance to win games this year, something we didn’t do last year.
Offensively, the Rebels have looked much better than last year, but defensively they have struggled, especially in the loss against Texas where they gave up 66 points. What has been the biggest problem for the Ole Miss defense so far?
The biggest problem is a lack of size and speed. If we can correct that genetic issue, we will be fine.
Seriously though, I think the biggest issue so far has been the secondary. Against Texas, there were so many jump balls their offense put in the air. Every single one was caught by Texas. There were times when our positioning wasn’t terrible, but playing the ball in the air is a major struggle for the team.
In response to that, we moved junior Charles Sawyer from safety to his more natural position of corner. It was successful against Tulane, but that’s not a very good barometer moving forward. We’ll see how he does covering better receivers.
Who is one Ole Miss player that Alabama fans probably haven’t heard of who will make an impact on Saturday night’s game?
Well, if there’s someone who makes an impact, it will likely be WR Donte Moncrief. I guess there’s a chance y’all have heard of him since he’s an excellent receiver, but I honestly think he may be the only player on our offense who might outmatch the opposition. Maybe not. Maybe he’ll be held quiet all game. He made the Texas defensive backs look silly though. He has incredible control over his body and a knack for going up and getting the ball even when it’s thrown poorly.
On defense, I’d have to say true freshman DT Isaac Gross. He’s vastly undersized at 250 pounds, but his first step is exceptional. If there’s someone on our defensive line who has proven capable of disrupting the pocket so far this year, it’s Gross. On plays where he doesn’t get the jump, he’ll struggle a bit, but there will be a number of plays where he’s in the backfield quickly. Hopefully he can make things happen to keep it close.
Ole Miss leads the SEC in rushing offense so far this season, but Alabama doesn’t yield much yardage on the ground, giving up just 62 yards per game through four games. Can Bo Wallace make enough plays in the passing game to keep this one competitive?
Probably not. Our second leading receiver (Korvic Neat) is out with a groin injury leaving Moncrief as our only reliable receiver. I would guess y’all will double team him on almost every play. That leaves us throwing passes to our backs in the flats and our possession receivers on short routes. That’s not a situation I want to be in against your defense. I think you’ll eat up those passes while keeping a lot of players in the box to stuff the run.
If our running game does get on track, it will be because of our quarterbacks finding lanes to run through themselves. Jeff Scott’s running style isn’t very successful against a big, fast, 3-4 defense since he relies on outside runs so much. Randall Mackey hasn’t shown enough this year to suggest that he can run between the tackles either.
I would guess we’ll have more than 62 rushing yards against you, but I’m really nervous that our offensive line, which has improved a lot since last year, will suffer a setback against your imposing d-line.
What’s your prediction for the game with a score?
I think you’ll come out and smother us from the get go. We might score in the first quarter. After that, it will be tough, since I think your defense adjusts very well.
Defensively, we’ll have trouble stopping your running game which will lead to us overcommitting, opening up the passing game.