How good is 2-0 Ole Miss?
How bad is 0-2 Vanderbilt?
So far, one would have to answer "potentially real good" and "awfully bad," respectively.
Regardless, here's our rundown of the team to this point in the still-young and developing season.
Good bullet points for the Rebs:
* QB Bo Wallace shook off the first game jitters or forcing the ball issues or whatever caused him to have a first half last week that only a mother could love and completely controlled and picked apart the Vandy defense. His decision-making, his progression reads and his command of the offense was as good as he has been at Ole Miss and more like what one would expect from a senior, three-year starter. P.S. - Don't tell me his arm is not better than it was at any time last year.
* If the Reb coaches were correct in their pregame evaluation of Vandy's defensive front being stellar, which is debatable, the Rebel run game showed some sparks, enough to keep Vanderbilt honest, at least in scheme, on defense. Sure, the run game has to continue to develop as the season progresses and opponents get tougher, but it was a far sight better than it was in the opener.
* The Rebs' top five receivers - Laquon Treadwell, Evan Engram, Cody Core, Vincent Sanders and Quincy Adeboyejo - are all playmakers. You want to double/shade to Quon? Be my guest. Someone who can hurt you will be open and if Bo keeps seeing them the way he did versus the Dores, there's danger straight ahead. P.S. - Core, folks, is a baller, he's now getting the chance to prove it and he is gaining confidence by the catch. Engram is All-SEC material or there is a flaw in the system.
* One thing in football has never changed - defense starts up front. Granted, we are all anxious to see the Reb stoppers against a really good SEC foe, but based on the way the DL has played thus far, there is no reason to fret that challenge. Those cats - from Robert Nkemdiche to C.J. Johnson to any number of them - are good. With Issac Gross now coming around, fingers crossed, from neck issues and Marquis Haynes developing by the rep, this group gets a thumbs up while it's still ascending. If I may be so bold, the best is yet to come from this unit.
* The options at linebacker are also impressive. D.T., Christian Russell and undervalued senior Keith Lewis are holding down the middle effectively and who can argue with the proven duo of Serderius Bryant and Denzel Nkemdiche? The linebackers slots are Allstate - in good hands.
* Preseason, the coaching staff felt the secondary would be much improved. Check and double check. We'll take it a step further. To this point, they are a strength of this defense. CBs Mike Hilton and Senquez Golson have taken their games to a new level, thus far. Their experience shows. Freshman Kendarius Webster may have the most raw ability of all of them and, even though he had a terrific spring, it was good to see a pick six from senior Cliff Coleman, who has turned into a trusted performer. At safety, Cody Prewitt is indeed an All-American, bonafide, and Trae Elston has improved as much as anyone on the team. Anthony Alford gets better by the eye blink.
* The special teams have been almost unnoticeable, which is a good thing, meaning no mishaps, do you job and move on. The depth that has been built in the last two years has help solidify those areas. Freshman K Gary Wunderlich got his first opportunities at kicking off and nailed two touchbacks and one out of bounds. Kid has a howitzer for a leg.(Sigh of relief with the ease Alford is fielding punts and the good judgment he is using so far.) Another P.S. - Channing Ward is a beast in kickoff coverage. A freight train run amuck.
* It was really cool to see QB Ryan Buchanan get his first action and promptly drive the team down the field. It was cool to see QB Devante Kincade score his first career TD with the promise of many more to come. It was cool to watch RB Eugene Brazley get a shot and capitalize with some nifty runs. Taylor looks like he is going to be the real deal in time in the interior of the OL. Webster may already be the real deal. Freshman Husky A.J. Moore was very impressive via these untrained eyes- his PBU was classic and showed his speed. Newcomer report card - a solid 'A'.
Areas that need work:
* After two games, an old nemesis has reared its ugly head some. Red Zone woes. It was an issue last year and, so far, it's been an annoyance through two games. That's really hard to digest since the offense has scored nine touchdowns in just two games, but there have been opportunities to score several more if not for bogging down for one reason or another. Nobody expects them to be 100%, but a reasonable expectation is to cease stopping themselves with false starts, holding calls, missed reads, etc, in the tight area. The plays have been there to be made, execution has, at times, been lacking.
* The Rebel offensive line showed substantial game one to game two improvement - witness the run game production, which is a good sign, an encouraging sign, but as Robert Frost once penned, paraphrasing, there are miles to go before they sleep. It was a good thing OL Coach Matt Luke had a game like this where he could try different personnel and different combinations freely and in stress-free conditions. It was good to see freshman Rod Taylor get his first action and that it was substantial. It was good to see a step forward in chemistry building and a reduction in penalties, but make no mistake, they are a work in progress.
* Overall, after reflection, the Rebels - no matter what your opinion of Vanderbilt is - made a step forward in a lot of areas. Coach Hugh Freeze said - except for a couple of things - he's pleased with the progress of his team thus far. No arguments here.
After Reflection, II
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