Keeping Rhythm

Nobody in the country needed an open week worse than the Ole Miss Rebels, but bye weeks can be a rhythm killer if not handled properly. Read about it inside.

When one thinks of the sport of football, usually the first thing that comes to mind is the physical side - contact.

It's about knocking the stew out of someone, being aggressive, a more civilized form of hand-to-hand combat.

Football is much more, though.

It it also about timing and being in a rhythm. Ask yourself, how else are you going to get 11 human beings going in a synchronized direction without fluid motion and an almost-melodic beat? They have to have the same pulse, the same flow, the same rhythm.

Once a unit achieves that rhythm, which is gratifying to watch and achieve, most coaches feel part of the battle is won.

But rhythm can be lost more quickly than it can be developed. Consequently, coaches who have been around understand the importance of keeping the rhythm of their team going, even with a layoff like an open week, which the Rebels are going through right now.

Dave Rader

"We want to keep our focus, our rhythm, during the open week," said co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks Coach David Rader. "We've had a pretty good rhythm going and our focus has been very good for a couple of weeks and we don't want that slipping away.

"You can lose that and when you do it is sometimes difficult to gain back. We are impressing on our guys that even though we don't have a game this week, we do next week and we have to keep our focus. They have done that this week."

Rader said there are signals to watch for in regard to a team losing focus/rhythm.

"We've had very few balls on the ground, no false starts and things like that. Those are sometimes indicators that the guys are not really concentrating, but we haven't had those. That's good," he continued. "We have practiced some things we've been doing and gotten a head start on some new things.

"Coach (Houston) Nutt has allowed us (the Reb offense) to go against our defense - a lot of best-on-best, and that always helps when you are trying to pick up the pace of a workout or practice. That has been very helpful for our unit, for sure.

"It's also been helpful for us as an offense to get more reps for some of the backups who sometimes don't get as many practice reps during a game week. That's very beneficial in us evaluating talent down the current depth chart."

The Ole Miss offense has established, particularly in the past two games, that they are adept at running the football. They are currently second in the SEC at 232 yards per game rushing, behind only Alabama at 237 per outing.

Rader and every breathing Reb who has anything to do with the offense knows, however, that Alabama is going to do everything they can to stop the run and force the Rebs to throw.

Where is the Rebel passing game?

"I think it's latent right now and is ready to spring out of that box. We know we are going to call on it soon and we have shown some positive indicators in the passing game, despite not going to it much here lately," Dave noted. "The number one indicator is that we have receivers who have an intense desire to catch the ball and that's very encouraging.

"We work on the passing game every day. We think it's there. We know we will find out, probably this game coming up."

Rader gets it. He knows Alabama DC Kirby Smart and the Tide defense will be gunning for the Reb running game.

"Most defensive coordinators start with trying to stop the run, so that is nothing new. We know we are going to have to throw the ball effectively to loosen them up a little bit," Rader stated.

David spent seven seasons - three one stint and four the other - as a Tide assistant coach.

"We had two children born there and have many good friends there. It will be interesting going back there," he said. "I have a lot of good memories from my time at Alabama."

All of that good feeling goes out the window once the whistle blows. Rader knows that.

Until then, it's 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. It's about keeping the rhythm and the timing going.

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