Targeting Memphis

During the open date last week, the Ole Miss football team worked mostly on Ole Miss, getting better with their techniques and sharpening their fundamentals. This week, it's all about the next opponent, the Memphis Tigers, who come to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

At Tuesday's practice, it was all Memphis, the Rebs' next opponent.

Sure, there were some "self-help" drills, but when push came to shove, the Tigers were the focus.

"We didn't have to add time to the clock at all today. The kids were locked in and they did well," said Coach Hugh Freeze. "We finished on time and didn't have to put any extra time to get something corrected on the clock. The kids understands the challenge we are facing with Memphis and practiced accordingly."

Freeze is very respectful of the Memphis defense and the attack he expects them to employ.

"They are very good at what they do. They disguise their blitzes well and will throw corner fire, corner trap, mad dogs inside - they do a lot of things and their kids play with urgency and passion," he stated. "They try to create negative plays and put you behind the chains and so far they have been successful."

Freeze knows the Tigers will be sky-high for the Rebs and the implications for them if they were to knock off a Top 10 team, but he is not changing his pregame strategy.

"We always preach the importance of a good start of the first quarter and good start of the third quarter. We realize they will be emotional, but we will be too because we didn't play last week," he explained. "We are anxious to play as well, but we need to retain our composure."

In the current environment in the NFL and in the college ranks, with what seems like more and more discipline/behavioral issues, what is Freeze doing to keep his players from those pitfalls?

"I don't judge people who make mistakes because I make them, but there are mistakes and there are some crazy mistakes and if one of ours makes a crazy mistake, it's because he has jumped over every roadblock we have put up to educate them on the way to live their lives," he continued. "Everything is magnified and they must understand that the platform they are on is under a microscope. They know what happens when they don't behave properly, but we continue to hammer it home daily."

Random Notes:

* What is Memphis' M.O. on offense? One, they have a smooth operator in QB Paxton Lynch. The Tigers have only given up one quarterback sack thus far in the season because they get rid of the ball quickly, run a lot of screens and employ an option and misdirection game in the run game. Staying "at home" is imperative. Assignment integrity is critical. Besides Lynch, RB Doroland Dorceus and WR Keiwone Malone are their main weapons.

* The Rebels are using 10-11 defensive linemen each game and Freeze hopes that continues. "All of them have played pretty consistently thus far. If they will continue that, we would love to keep playing that many to keep them fresh all game and all year," he stated.

* Andrew Fletcher is 100% in placement opportunities. "He has made the most of his chances and I'm happy for him. He's a senior and got his chance and is capitalizing. He's good from 43 yards in and then we would probably go with freshman Gary Wunderlich for longer field goals, but I am very pleased with Andrew," Freeze noted.

* What is the Tigers' M.O. on defense? As the Rebels have faced the first three games, Memphis runs a 3-4 base defense. Their two outside linebackers can line up on the line of scrimmage and either drop or rush. Their three down linemen will "hunker down," not as interested in a pass rush as holding their ground and guarding their gaps. They will aggressively blitz from all linebacker, safety and cornerback slots. They have not given up many sustained drives, but they have yielded o the big play, mainly due to their gambling on some blitz calls.

* Last week, there was some concern about running backs I'Tavius Mathers (toe) and Jordan Wilkins (knee/ankle). Both were at practice today and both appeared to be going full speed.

* While Freeze said WR Collins Moore, who has been out all year with a knee injury, will not be ready for the Memphis game, he was dressed out at practice and working in some drills. Good sign.

* Word at practice is that two players made "significant" jumps last week during the open week with the extra reps - Middle Linebacker Christian Russell and freshman RG Roderick Taylor. They are both expected to get substantial playing time against Memphis.

* Converted DT to OL to, now, tight end Carlton Martin has been "begging" for the ball. Even though he has only been at TE for two weeks, he wants to catch a pass. In passing drills, he has shown decent hands, but it's not likely his pleading will work.

* Freshman WR Markell Pack, now that he is absorbing more and more of the offensive system, is starting to show the explosive first step he was recruited for. It's easily detectable after he catches a punt, but now that he's thinking less and playing faster, his speed and quickness are starting to surface after he catches a pass as well. "He has to heighten his awareness on some things, but he's definitely coming on and a guy we will lean on as the season progresses," Freeze noted.

* MLB D.T. Shackelford injured his ankle in the ULL game, but the open week seems to have taken care of that. While his ankle is still heavily taped, he was moving well in Tuesday's practice.

* Media access has been limited to one day, today, this week. There will be no practice report tomorrow (Wednesday).

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