Everything - almost - about Saturday's season opener against UT-Martin went according to plan, at least on the field.
The Rebs, as expected, mauled the Skyhawks, 76-3, with just about everything clocking the Rebs' way.
(We'll get to the off-the-field 'stuff' in a bit.)
Take a lot of the following with a grain of salt - with al due respect to them, the Skyhawks were hard to get a true measurement from.
* Everyone, literally, had their eyes on the quarterbacks since there has been an eight-month battle for the starting nod. Junior Chad Kelly won the honor to start the opener and did not disappoint, throwing for 211 yards and two TDs and running for a 20 yard TD. But Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade also did nice jobs, showing why the battle for the job has been, as the coaches have been saying all along, a close one. At the same time, yours truly can see why Chad currently has the edge. Either way, from a first look perspective, QB is in pretty good hands.
* It was good to see Laquon Treadwell back in action, even though the gifted one played tentative and looked rusty, which he admitted and felt postgame. That will go away, quickly. Good to have that first game back from his horrific injury under his belt.
* From the first day of spring training until the present, the Rebels have worked on improving the run game. If their dreams are to be fulfilled, they must be a better run team than they were last year. The early signs are positive that they are better on the ground. Again, we're tempering our enthusiasm based on the opposition, but from an execution standpoint, the Rebel run game just looked crisper and better overall. 338 yards rushing is a modicum of proof.
* As anticipated, the defense was stingy, holding the Skyhawks to 290 yards and 3 points while liberally emptying the bench early in the contest. As advertised, the defense is deep, talented and versatile, capable of any style of game.
* Individually, it was cool to see Robert Nkemdiche catch a TD pass out of the heavy set (Freeze said he called the play for Robert's Mom, who was in attendance on a rare occasion) and to block a field goal, besides causing havoc on the DL.
* It was great to see Carlos Davis back in action after sitting out a year with a knee injury. He has a really good look, from my cheap seat, fielding punts and he certainly looks capable of making a play with his speed and courage back there.
* It was cool to see Cody Core, Markell Pack, Quincy Adeboyejo, Jaylen Walton (2), Eugene Brazley and D.K. Buford score offensive TDs and Trae Elston's 93-yard interception return was scintillating.
* Kudos to new Deep Snapper Will Few, who did an excellent job in his first action. We had been spolied by Will Denny for three years, but it looks like Few is going to pick up the baton and run with it.
* It was good see freshman LG Javon Patterson in action with his first career start. He's going to be a special OL here and is off to a really fast start.
* Robert Conyers had his first start at center and showed why he has moved there. He was effective, aggressive and on top of his game.
Now to the unexpected. . . .
Rumors started circulating Thursday about the school siting out Laremy Tunsil while some "unresolved issues" were being looked into by the NCAA. He sat out the opener, which he was not needed in, but the question that nobody can seem to answer is 'how many more games, if any?' The prevailing thought, also rumor, is "2-4" but nobody really knows for sure.
Fahn Cooper moved to left tackle from RT for the UT-Martin game and did a fine job, but with all respect to Fahn, he is no Tunsil, who is a top five NFL pick. It was good to see Sean Rawlings get his first start at RT, but with all due respect to him, he's not Fahn Cooper yet.
Bottom line, obviously, is that the Rebs need Tunsil back in the fold. And that's a big 'duh, Chuck.'
Also, MLB C.J. Johnson, FS C.J. Hampton and DT Breeland Speaks (for a half) were suspended and it was stated those suspensions were for breaking team rules, even though we had heard Hampton's was also NCAA related. Either way, all three are anticipated to play next week against Fresno State.
Get Laremy back soon and all will be well with the world because other than his school-imposed suspension, all was well in the world of Ole Miss football. . .
. . . . as expected.
COLUMN: As Expected
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