Down The Stretch

The 8th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels got a head start on their gameplan for Arkansas during the open week, but it's game week now and it's full sped ahead as the Hogs await this Saturday in Fayetteville.

The Rebels used the open week to rest, heal, get back to basics and get a head start on the Arkansas gameplan.

It was just what they needed after a grueling seven game stretch without a break, but now it's back to the grind as the Razorbacks, fresh off a 17-0 skunking of LSU, are on the horizon.

Last week, in a more leisurely setting, the Rebel coordinators discussed Arkansas' offense and defense. The conclusions were pointed.

One, do not underestimate their ability on both sides of the ball.

Two, on defense, they have a typical SEC front, which is where it all starts on that side of the ball.

Three, on offense, the Hogs have a huge offensive line, excellent backs and two tight ends that are effective blocking in the run game and important cogs in their play-action passing game.

Four, they have steadily improved, witness their breakthrough win over the Tigers last Saturday.

"I have said all year long that, talent-wise, all seven teams in the SEC West are good enough to be in the Top 25," said Coach Hugh Freeze. "I still feel that way. Arkansas knows who they are and they have stuck with their guns on the direction they want their program to go in and it is starting to pay off."

It's been an up and down year for the Hogs, but lately they have been more than competitive with Alabama, losing 14-13; Mississippi State, falling 17-0; and finally getting their first SEC victory over LSU.

"They lined up and competed with the best in the country and we expect no less this Saturday," Freeze added.

While most observers feel the number one task for the Rebels is to stop the formidable Arkansas run attack, which is certainly a priority, Freeze thinks the issues are two-fold.

"There's no doubt their run game is very good, but what is often overlooked is their run defense," he said. "Not many people are gaining yards on the ground against them."

And as the Rebels experienced at LSU, when they could not run the ball nor stop LSU's run game, it made for a long night.

"We have to be able to do both," Freeze said, with nothing more needed.

"They have the best run game we have faced all year because they are talented and they are committed to it," said DE Fadol Brown. "We have to win the war up front. It's all on us."

The Rebels practiced in the Manning Center Tuesday in full pads and all hands were on deck, dressed out and practicing.

Random Notes:

* Left Tackle Laremy Tunsil returned to practice Sunday and, after Monday's mandatory day off, was back on the field Tuesday. He is wearing a brace on his right arm that protects his injury, but the word is that is precautionary and he has healed nicely with three weeks of rest.

* Left Guard Aaron Morris, who sat out the Presbyterian game with a pulled quad muscle, was also back in the fold. The Rebels - so far this week - now have the starting offensive line that helped the Rebels get to 7-0 with LT Tunsil, LG Morris, Center Ben Still, RG Justin Bell and RT Fahn Cooper. Still, you will recall, missed the LSU game with a knee issue and played against Auburn when he probably should have been sitting, but he gutted it out.

* Freshman PK Gary Wunderlich kicked against Auburn despite having a pulled hamstring in his plant (left) leg. He has been rested since and did not kick in the Presbyterian game. He was back on the field Tuesday kicking and is expected to handle PK chores against the Hogs.

* Senior LB Keith Lewis sustained a concussion against Presbyterian, but after sitting out of practice during the open week, returned to practice Tuesday fit and ready to go.

* There were some rumors floating around over the weekend that junior Rover Trae Elston was having some residual effects from the concussion he got during the Auburn game. Those rumors were false. He practiced last week and was in full gear Tuesday.

* Senior FS Cody Prewitt has been limited the last three weeks, since the Auburn game, in the amount of contact he has been allowed to participate in because of bruised ribs. Even though he played a little against Presbyterian, he has been held out of any contact drills before and after. He was participating in all drills Tuesday.

* Fallen WR Laquon Treadwell made his first appearance at practice since his year-ending foot injury at the end of the Auburn game. He has his repaired foot, in a boot, supported by a scooter. As usual, he was all smiles, encouraging his teammates and engaging with them during drills and from the sidelines. One would expect nothing less from that youngster now that he has become more mobile.

* Backup QB Ryan Buchanan missed practice Tuesday with some type of stomach virus. A 24-hour bug has been going around Oxford, which is the likely culprit.

* Mike Hilton, the jack-of-all-trades in the Rebel secondary, was back at cornerback Tuesday with Elston and Prewitt now healed up and ready to go. You will recall, Hilton has had to play safety a couple of times this year when Elston has been out.

* When you talk about the Arkansas offense versus the Rebel defense, it is going to be a classic battle of size versus quickness. The Hogs average around 330-pounds a man on their offensive line, the biggest in college football. The Rebel starting defensive line averages around 260-265. They can "go bigger" with guys like Woody Hamilton and Lavon Hooks, and certainly the 10-11-man rotation they use up front will lessen the wear-down factor, but how do you counteract roughly a 60-pound-per-man disadvantage in size up front? There's only one way, assuming proper technique and assignment and alignment - movement, both pre-snap and with quickness off the ball. It will be an interesting tug of war.

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