Productive Offense

Dan Werner said it’s a bit of a mixed bag as to whether an open date is ever the best thing or not, especially when a coach feels his area of the team is improving.

“We felt like we were getting better each week,” said the Ole Miss offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. “So it’s one of those deals where you want to keep on playing. But any time you do get a few days off to rest, not only as players but as coaches, it’s welcomed.”

The Rebels had last week off after their 3-0 start, climbing already this season to as high as their current No. 10 ranking in the Associated Press poll.

Open date weeks aren’t off weeks. There’s healing and preparation, fixing some things and moving ahead, no matter how much of the season remains. In the Rebels’ case, that’s nine more regular season games this autumn, beginning with the Memphis Tigers in Oxford Saturday night.

“You can work on some things and look at yourself; you can self-scout,” Werner said. “You work on some things schematically, but also some things you feel we can do better by position. So we got a lot of that done last week.”

Open dates mean planning ahead for some things while not looking ahead, at least not past the next opponent. It’s an opportunity to see some players who haven’t gotten a lot of chances so far.

“Last week we got a lot of the younger guys reps in practice,” Werner said, “so it was a good week. And now we have to get back at it.”

Memphis is 2-1 this season and much improved by most accounts. It’s the first time since 2009 Ole Miss and the Tigers have played. Werner sees their improvement, even watching film from last year when the Rebels didn’t play them through three games this year.

“These guys are really scary. They bring a lot of different blitzes,” he said of the Tiger defense. “They disguise those really well. The teams that we’ve seen have given up a lot of sacks, a lot of negative plays. That’s one thing we’ve been fairly good on so far this year.

“So they bring a lot of different things to the table that are going to be tough for us. I’m glad we’ve had two weeks to prepare for them.”

In those two weeks, Werner continued to see Rebel offensive progress. But as stated earlier, he believes the Rebels were making offensive progress already, scoring 35, 41, and 56 points in their first three games.

“I think we’re right where we need to be at this point,” he said. “As a coach you always want to be better. It seems like we’ve gotten better each week. Bo (Wallace) has made a bunch of good decisions, and I haven’t seen anything that really scared me. Hopefully he can keep that going. Usually as the quarterback goes and he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, the offense looks better.”

Werner Notes:

* On the offensive line:

“We’re still playing more guys there than we’re used to. But that’s a good thing. That means we have guys that we feel can step in. We’d like to get it where the same five guys are playing. But if there are six, seven, or eight guys that can help us, we’ll get them in there.”

* On backup QBs Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade:

“They’re doing well. They have to look at it as they’re the next guy in. We’ve got a certain package for both of them. So if something were to happen, they’d be ready to go.”

* On Jeremy Liggins’ progress:

“We’re asking a lot of things out of him. He’s played quarterback in certain situations. He’s playing tight end. He’ll split out sometimes. So we’ve put a lot on his plate. He’s learning it. It’s going to take a while. Normally people think of the tight end as the guy that doesn’t have to learn that much. But in our system, because he’s going to be on the ball, off the ball, in the backfield, split out, has to worry about run plays, blocking, pass plays - he’s got a lot to deal with. That was a long answer to say he’s doing a good job.”

* On the offense so far generally:

“Everybody’s tried to shut our run game down, so we’ve been throwing it more. It will be interesting when people get tired of us beating them with 350 yards passing and they start playing a little softer and we can run the ball. So we’ll see what happens.”

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