'Tough' Expected

Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator Mike Markuson knows what's circulating about Arkansas' defense and he's not buying in to it. Read his thoughts inside.

Arkansas gave up 65 points to Auburn last Saturday.

Based on that outing, one would have to feel pretty good about the Rebs' chances on offense Saturday when they invade Fayetteville to take on the Hogs.

Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator Mike Markuson, also the offensive line coach, isn't buying into that line of thinking.

"In their first five games, they gave up 15 points a game. The Auburn game was an aberration, one of those deals we have all experienced in this profession," Markuson explained.

Mike Markuson

"The ball gets rolling the other way, things get out of hand and there's nothing you can do to stop it. It happens. We've all been there. It's a one-time thing for them and not characteristic of their defense. It will be a hard-fought game. We have to to ready for a real physical contest."

On the contrary, Markuson has a great deal of respect for the Razorback defense.

"They play with a lot of energy and they give you a lot of different looks," Markuson said. "We have a lot to prepare for and we are not sure what to expect. The last two days have been a little stressful giving our guys all the looks they could see and trying to get them to absorb those looks.

"They have guys who give great effort. Jake Bequette and Damario Ambrose are excellent rush guys, their MLB Jerry Franklin is a very good player and they have some good young talent they are bringing along nicely. Their starters on defense are mostly juniors and seniors so we expect them to bounce back from the Auburn game."

The Rebels will travel to Arkansas with yet another different starting offensive line. This week, A.J. Hawkins, who missed the Alabama game with a shoulder injury, is back and will be replacing Logan Clair, who broke his foot in the game against the Tide, at right guard. A.J. was the starting center the first five games. Now, true freshman Evan Swindall will be snapping the ball.

"Evan has been doing really well. He had a good game at Alabama for a true freshman. He took care of the ball and tied up their defensive linemen pretty decent, considering. For his first collegiate start, in that environment, I was very proud of him. He exceeded my expectations for sure. I couldn't be happier with him," Mike allowed. "A.J. is a tremendous athlete - he could play a lot of positions. I don't think we'll miss anything at right guard. I feel good about those two guys.

"Also, we have been getting freshman Jared Duke some more reps in practice this week. We took the redshirt off of him and hope to get him some playing time this week at right guard. He's a big, physical kid who locks on to defenders and stays locked on."

Jared Duke

The gameplan for the Rebels will be fairly simple - control the ball and keep it away from the potent offense of the Hogs.

"Against a great offense like Arkansas has, the best defense is for our offense to stay on the field a long time," Mike noted. "We have to make first downs, move the chains, eat some clock, hang on to the ball and score. If you get in a situation where you are having a bunch of three-and-outs on offense, you are in for a long day.

"We have to help our defense by keeping them off the field. You could say that every week, but against their offense it's doubly important."

The Rebels will rely on an improved run game to control the clock and eat up turf.

"We were disappointed a little last Saturday night against Alabama when we couldn't get a rhythm going in the first half with our backs to the wall most of the time," he said. "In the second half, though, we sprung a few. We got some things going, but the bottom line is that we have to be more consistent against the better teams we play.

"You can't have negative plays and be behind the chains against any defense in the SEC. You have to get positive yards on first and second downs and put yourself in position to move the chains. While our running game has been god at times, we just need more consistency."

While the run game has been the bread and butter of the Ole Miss offense thus far, Mike is also aware that some consistency and production is needed in the passing game.

"We dropped too many balls against Alabama. We have to do a better job there, for sure. We want to throw more, but it's not how much you throw, it's how productive you are when you throw that matters," he added. "We are going to be in situations this Saturday where we will need to mix things up and make plays in the passing game. There's no doubt about that. We need to execute better than we did last Saturday, obviously."

The Rebel offense managed only 10 points against Alabama.

Mike knows that's not enough.

"We need to get back on track this week and do what we did against Kentucky and Fresno - execute and score regularly," he closed. "That and ball control will be our keys this week."

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