Role Reversal

On Friday, the Rebel offense had trouble lining up, it seemed. At Saturday's scrimmage, with the quarterbacks "live," the offense made things happen, which pleased Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze.

A couple of times last spring, the Rebel defense dominated a practice only to see the offense come back the next day and have a productive practice.

The same thing happened the past two days. Friday, it was all defense. In Saturday's scrimmage, the offense - while not dominant - did show signs of life and got the best of the Reb defenders.

"The offense responded, which is what I had hoped to see. There's no question they showed more determination and passion to do positive things today," said Freeze. "We actually finished some drives. Granted, we had some possessions deep and in the Red Zone that were offensive-friendly, but we did good things even when we went the length of the field.

"We had a chance to make some more plays, but had a couple of drops that were TDs and a couple of blown protections on plays that looked good developing. I was proud of the way the offensive staff and players responded to Friday's beat down."

Freeze likes the back-and-forth going on at spring training.

"That's what good teams do. I'm sure the defense will not be happy with today and they will respond Monday when we resume practice," he continued. "We'll have some back-and-forth next week, I believe."

The key for the offense was staying on schedule, ahead of the chains, with manageable 2nd and third downs instead of 2nd-and-15 or 3rd-and-10, etc., like Friday.

"There were a few times we didn't put our foot in the ground and go forward, but for the most part we stayed in manageable third down calls," he noted. "We have to stay in that 2nd and 3rd-and-short mode to be successful.

Mark Dodson
File Photo

"It wasn't perfect today. We had a couple of snap infractions and a few negative plays, but all-in-all we did a pretty good job of staying on schedule and away from the big negative plays."

One factor Saturday was that Freeze opted to let the quarterbacks go live - full contact. Both Barry Brunetti and Maikhail Miller are good, strong runners and made some chain-moving, downhill, key runs.

"That gives us a more accurate read of who we are. When they aren't live, we blow the whistle quick and we really don't know if the QB would have gotten 1 yard or 10," Freeze explained. "It's a risk, but I believe you have to do that at least once or twice a spring. I had a feeling we could get some QB runs from them today, so we went with it and it worked quite a bit."

Both QBs moved the offense, to a certain extent, and both were effective in the Red Zone, but both remain inconsistent throwing the ball.

"We've been up and down throwing the ball this spring, but we had a little better today. Like I said, we had some drops today, but we also missed some open receivers we have to hit this fall," Hugh added.

Several players were missing from the scrimmage. The ones out for spring (Bo Wallace, Aaron Morris, C.J. Johnson and D.J. Bailey) plus WR Donte Moncrief (shoulder), OL Patrick Junen (toe ligament damage), Husky Dehendret Collins, DT Carlton Martin (toe), DT Issac Gross (groin) and TE Christian Morgan (knee). Morgan will have an MRI on his knee Monday morning with the early prognosis being a meniscus issue.

"I hate it for them, but I can't fret that right now. There is no need dwelling on that in spring," Freeze stated. "I will be glad to get them all back this summer."

Freeze is anxious to get QB signees Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade in the fold, for obvious reasons.

Ja-Mes Logan
File Photo

"I hope they can catch on quickly this summer when they are watching cutups on their own. We need to create more competition in the QB room. That's what it is all about in the SEC - depth and creating competition. We have two or three rooms that don't have enough and that is one of them," Hugh assessed.

Random Notes:

* TB Mark Dodson had 8 carries for 33 yards in the scrimmage. "I think he's a really good player. He is fighting a bad ankle," said Freeze. "It looked like he was better today and he ran that way."

* Robert Ratliff also got an opportunity to run the offense with both the first and second teams and he responded with a 10-yard TD pass to redshirt freshman TE Matt Brown, who also had a 20-yard catch, and a 41-yard TD pass to Vincent Sanders.

* TB I'tavius Mathers scored on a one-yard plunge up the middle, Miller bulled in from 10 yards out, Brunetti found Ja-Mes Logan for a 6-yard TD, and TB Darryan Ragsdale scored from 1 yard out after hitting a 25-yard jaunt the play before.

* The defense was not devoid of plays either. DT Bryon Bennett and DE Carlos Thompson each had quarterback hurries as did DE Channing Ward and MLB Temario Strong. FS Cody Prewitt had several hits on the day, MLB Mike Marry was visible with two or three nice tackles at the LOS, FS Chief Brown knocked down a pass and had a couple of open field tackles, and Stinger LB Denzel Nkemdiche was, as usual, all over the field.

* In team field goal drills, Andrew Ritter nailed a 52-yarder that would have cleared from 60 and was one-yard shy on a 57-yarder in swirling wind. He was perfect inside the 40.

* TBs Jeff Scott and Jaylen Walton are close to being clones, one is just older and more experienced, which shows at times. Both are hard to draw a bead on and both can plant their foot and cut on a dime. Good one-two combo of scatbacks.

* The Rebs will resume practice Monday morning at 8.

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