Experience 'Invaluable'

Co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Mike Markuson has been pleased with the progress he has seen from his revamped offensive line, but he knows they are facing a different challenge this week with Kentucky. Read about it inside.

The revamped Ole Miss offensive line of LT Bradley Sowell, LG Patrick Junen, C A.J. Hawkins, RG Logan Clair and RT Bobby Massie got high marks, all things considered, in their successful debut against Fresno State last Saturday night.

But offensive line coach Mike Markuson knows his young group is about to face a different breed of defensive line when Kentucky rolls into town Saturday morning.

"All we can do is tell them in practice what they are about to face. I told them a couple of times in practice today (Wednesday) that if they think the mistakes they just made were something, wait until you get in that game Saturday," he said. "They are being well-warned they are facing a different animal this week.

"We have a lot of confidence in those guys, but we are making sure they know what they are about to face."

Mike Markuson

Mike is starting to see more cohesiveness on the OL.

"We playing better as a unit. Things are coming together a little bit more each day," he continued. "With that being said, I think we'll be alright.

"It was invaluable the experience they got against Fresno State. They went through a lot of five-second wars out there and saw a lot of things that can happen, like slants, twists, etc," he explained. "We had good film for them to see and correct from. They realize what they did good and what they did badly. In a word, invaluable.

"We had a good starting point for them to improve from. We don't have to guess how a certain player will respond now."

Markuson is working double-time to get the OL to play fast. It's a see-saw mission - some plays real good, others a little too much thinking.

"We are starting to play faster, but we are still thinking a lot, particularly on adjustments from the inexperienced guys," he said. "The older guys understand the adjustments, the younger ones are looking at you like 'I sort of have it, but I don't quite have it yet.' It's all about practicing them hard and exposing them to more and more each day with quality reps."

Mike has not had to simplify as much as one might expect.

"We are a gap team, a zone team and we have five or six different protections. We really haven't had to change that much," he stated. "Coach (Houston) Nutt has always done a good job of calling what he thinks those guys can handle - we've always been aware of that aspect of it.

Patrick Junen

"It helps that we have Jeremiah (Masoli) at quarterback. He gives the offense some stability because he gets it all. He gets rid of the football quickly and can be elusive when things break down."

Masoli definitely gets the seal of approval from Mike.

"He does so many things naturally. We don't have to tell him to run or to throw. If he has a window or a crease, he will run. If he sees something open downfield, he gets rid of it quickly and all of that helps the OL," Markuson assessed. "Defenses also have to stay in their lines and be disciplined. If they aren't, he can quickly make them pay.

"He can find those little windows and make first downs with his feet. That's a tremendous asset."

The Rebels got the read option going against Fresno and Mike explained why.

"One, we showed some formations we haven't shown earlier in the year and the backs did a great job of hitting it downhill and running hard," noted Mike. "Jeremiah made some good decisions and Jeff Scott came in and gave us that speed element. Speed brings another element to the game. We had the power thing going and the speed thing going and that's what defenses don't want to see."

It's also valuable that Masoli has run that read option before in his college career.

"He understands it thoroughly. It's been an easy transition to put that in our offense with him at quarterback because he's so comfortable with it," Markuson closed.

Is the "new" OL ready for Kentucky? Do the Rebel coaches have anything different up their sleeves?

We'll see soon enough . . . about 11:20 a.m. Saturday.

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