Hoover, Ala.--Heading into his third season as the head coach at Ole Miss, Ed Orgeron has already become a very recognizable figure in the SEC but not because of the play of his football team. In two years, the Rebels have won just seven games and are still in a building process under Orgeron. While he admits they are still a long way from where he wants to be, the coach admits he's finally seeing some signs that his team is growing and learning how to play at another level.
"I really feel this, I can see some things in our team that I've seen on championship teams that I have been a part of in the past," Orgeron says. "Are we there? No. Do we have the type of players that we had? No. They are starting to act the same way and compete the same way.
"I really feel like we're building depth," he adds. "I looked at our depth chart his morning before I left and we actually had two offensive lines across the board, which is new for us. We have three defensive lines across the board. We're building depth but it's going to take a while."
The defense will likely look a lot different at Ole Miss in 2007 with the loss of All-American linebacker Patrick Willis the big blow for the Rebels. With the addition of new coordinator John Thompson, Orgeron says he's turning much of the defense over to Thompson and all of the gameday activities. That's something he believes will be good for his team.
"I'm excited to have John Thompson as my defensive coordinator," Orgeron says. "I think you're going to see a more attack style, more of a blitzing attitude on first and second downs. We'll have some unorthodox stuff on third downs to give the offenses protection problems. We want to do a great job on defense of creating turnovers and I think John is excellent at that.
"Going into the season I really felt that I needed help, especially on the back end," he adds. "I wanted to hire a defensive back coach that could help me organize the defense when I wasn't there and John Thompson's name came to mind. I called him and had to do a little recruiting because he was an athletic director and didn't plan on coming back to college football. I think it was a great marriage. I really wanted somebody that would allow me to be the head football coach. John is going to call all of the defenses but also keep the good things that we've done on defense intact and build off that."
In most years the addition of Thompson would be the biggest news but for the Rebels that is still the question mark at the quarterback position. Last year's starter Brent Schaeffer returns but from Orgeron's remarks on Friday it appears the frontrunner for the position is Seth Adams. Saying Schaeffer still has problems with things such as going to class and attending meetings on a regular basis, Adams looks like the clear choice based on Orgeron's criteria.
"Our quarterback position is going to be open," Orgeron says. "We have had very inconsistent play at the quarterback position the last two years. We're looking for a consistent quarterback, a quarterback with a short and controlled passing game that can make the right decisions along the line of scrimmage. We want a leader in the huddle, someone we can trust to direct the offense in the right way.
"First of all Brent is a great athlete," he adds. "You could see that in the Memphis game, the Alabama game, he's a guy that can change a game. He's got a very strong arm but he's a very inconsistent player. He has an inconsistent lifestyle that leads to that. Seth is always there. He's a leader and makes good decisions on the line of scrimmage. I think he can have a great year in a short, controlled passing offense."
With a solid running game led by back Benjarvus Green-Ellis and the return of Michael Oher and a veteran offensive line, the offense should be more able to grind out the yards and keep the defense off the field. That has been something that has been huge for a depleted and small Ole Miss defensive line in the last two years but Orgeron says for the first time he feels like he has the depth to compete up front on both sides of the ball. That is music to the ears of Rebel fans.
"I really feel that we're going to have a very good defensive line," Orgeron says. "I have mentioned Marcus Tillman and we have Greg Hardy on the other side. I'm probably going to play him on offense and defense. He played a little bit last year and did very well on offense. He's a big target so we're going to find a place for him to play on offense.
"We also have Kentrell Lockett at defensive end but the thing I'm most excited about is that we're finally going to have some 300-pounders in the middle with Peria Jerry, who is an excellent player that was hurt most of last year. We also have Jeremy Garrett, Ted Laurent, Lawon Scott, we're going to build depth along our defensive line."