Rebel 'O' Faces Speed Challenge

Tennessee's defense concerns Ole Miss Co-Offensive Coordinator Mike Markuson for one main reason - speed. Read his thoughts on the Vol defenders inside.

Tennessee's defense is not a big, bad bully, akin to what some traditional SEC defenses are.

But according to Ole Miss Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Mike Markuson, they make up for it with that one commodity that cannot be coached - speed.

"They have some really fast players. They can run and are very athletic," said Mike. "They have been disruptive because they use their speed wisely.

"They slant, they twist and their linebackers replace well when their front slants. That puts an extra premium on being gap-conscious in everything you do up front. They are going to move and replace and they are really good at it. In protections, we have to really be on our toes and ready for a lot of different looks. As I said, they use their speed well."

Mike Markuson

Counteracting speed centers around being aware you are facing it, as simple as that sounds.

"The one thing for sure when you are facing speed is knowing they have it. By that I mean, you better take what they give you in the run game and not do anything extra-curricular like trying to bounce it outside very often. Fast teams will flat-out run you down if you try that," he added. "You better take what they give you and move on to the next play. Get downhill quickly and stay downhill.

"If you stay with that, and block them up correctly, there can be some gaps there, some creases with the opportunity for big plays, but a whole lot of improvisation will cost you when you are playing the kind of speed they have."

From an OL standpoint, he difficulty in that type of attack is more with the younger or less experienced players, like RG Jared Duke, LG Tank Washington and Center A.J. Hawkins, who have not seen a lot of slanting yet in their careers.

"You try to simulate it in practice the best you can. We give them all the looks we think they will see, but you also know in the back of your mind they will come up with some wrinkles as well," he added. "The main thing is to be gap-conscious in protections and in the run game.

"You just don't want to turn anyone loose to give them a clear path to the ball."

Duke will be getting his third start in his true freshman year.

"Jared works hard and is smart. He has done a lot of good things in his first two starts and he continues to get better," Mike noted. "He is still a little star-gazed with what we see week-in and week-out, but he's next to Bobby Massie and A.J., who help him along the way. He's doing real well, but we always want all of them to get better fundamentally."

Bobby Massie

Mike went with true frosh Patrick Junen for a couple of weeks at left guard, but then Junen turned his ankle and he has gone back to Washington, who started at LG earlier in the year.

"Junen is still a little hobbled, but Tank has also come on better here lately. He's done some good things and just seems to be our best fit right now in my mind," Markuson said. "Patrick is moving around better, so we will see how the game goes."

Markuson said some things are up in the air in the Rebel camp due to the uncertainty of QB Jeremiah Masoli's availability.

"We are having to work some extra things, but we are going to do what we do. What we did last week with Nathan (Stanley) in the game was natural recall. I don't see it as a big issue, but we are having to prepare two quarterbacks with two different gameplans," he stated.

At the entrance of the Ole Miss practice fields, there is a big banner that reads: They Remember In November.

The Rebs have won one game in the 11th month of 2010 already. Can they make it two this Saturday?

If they can handle the speed issue, they have a good shot.

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