Whole Package

Ole Miss Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Mike Markuson knows a good job when he sees one. Along those lines, he appreciates what Egg Bowl foe Mississippi State has accomplished this year on the defensive side of the ball. Read about it inside.

There's never any love lost in a rivalry game and this Saturday's Egg Bowl match between 4-7 Ole Miss and 7-4 Mississippi State certainly qualifies as a grudge match.

But that doesn't mean rival coaches can't appreciate the body of work of each other.

To that end, Ole Miss Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Mike Markuson understands the job Bulldog Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz has done this year.

"They've done a great job with those guys," said Markuson. "They play hard, they have good athletes and they play defense the way it's supposed to be played. They chase the ball, they are disruptive and they get afer you on every snap. They are the whole package and have a good group."

Mike Markuson

The statistics this year bear that sentiment out.

The Bulldogs are led by linebackers Chris White and K.J. Wright. White is the fourth-leading tackler in the SEC with 96 stops, including 14 tackles for loss and 6 quarterback sacks. Wright is not far behind with 84 tackles.

"Their linebackers are active and make the plays that are there to be made, and some," Mike stated. "They read plays quickly and have the ability to penetrate if you don't get a hat on them at the right time."

The Bulldog stoppers are third in the SEC in scoring defense, giving up 20.1 points per game, and also third in the SEC in Red Zone defense.

"They give you a lot of looks. We will have to do a good job of watching film and simulating in practice the best we can what they like to do most often," said Mike. "Then we have to try to prepare for a different wrinkle or two they will have for us. In other words, against a team like them, you have to have good recognition on what you know they'll do and be able to adjust on the fly to the new stuff they will throw at you.

"Our guys up front will have to use a lot of recall as well. By now, we've seen almost everything you can see from different defensive schemes and we're hoping our younger guys have good recall as we adjust through the course of the game. You might make a mistake or two, but how quickly you can get it corrected and understand what they are doing, the better. From that standpoint, it will be no different than any other SEC game, but MSU does some things extremely well and we have to be ready for that."

Markuson has been pleased with the trial-by-fire improvement of his offensive line as the season has progressed and it's something he expected.

"When you throw them in the fire, don't pull them out, keep repping them and they want to get better, which our kids do, they can't help but get better," he explained. "I'm happy with the progress our guys up front have made and continue to make. These kids have a bright future if they keep going on the path they are on.

"Collectively, as a group, we've had games where we have played very well. Last week against LSU, we played very well as an offense. The only thing holding us back is that we have been a little inconsistent at times. Overall, we've put in the time and played in the games and it's starting to show more each week in our progress. Unfortunately, we aren't going to keep that going this year through bowl practice. That's discouraging to have to miss those extra practices, but it's the bed we made this year.

Bobby Massie

"If there is a plus, though, to this year it's that a lot of our young players got a lot of action in a live situation and that's how you learn and get better. Scout team work is good, but it's not like playing in games. It's not like real fire."

Markuson is very encouraged about the future of the Ole Miss offense and the OL.

"I'm very excited. We don't lose anyone up front and only a few on the whole offense. We have some great kids coming in next year. We've gained some valuable experience with some young kids. We have a couple of young kids who are redshirting who will add a lot to our package. They are working hard in the weight room. The future is bright, but we need to get this game to set the right tone for next year and the future," Mike stated. "I'm sure they feel the same way. It's an important game for both teams. We know that and they know that."

As it does every week, the Egg Bowl, Mike believes, will come down to execution and taking care of the football.

"It's the same story every week. The team that makes the fewest mistakes, takes care of the ball the best and executes will win," he closed. "We're doing all we can to make sure that's us and we understand the challenge we face in a fine defense at Mississippi State."

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