Placements - field goals and extra points - have been very good so far this year, knock on wood, but. . . .
. . . The Rebel return game has struggled, both in performance and finding the right personnel to handle the multiple tasks, but Special Teams Coordinator Corey Batoon saiys it's a matter of staying the course, continuing to work hard and constant tending to.
"We never stop trying to get our special teams right, We have to be better in some aspects of special teams, there is no doubt about that," Batoon stated. "We will get there. We just have to keep plowing ahead and repping, repping, repping.
"It's kind of been like last week when Memphis ran a fake punt. We had people in position, we just didn't make the play. It's just like a safety or corner or linebacker being in position, but whiffing, We have to keep working it so that youngster can make the play the next time."
Actual returns have been almost nonexistant.
"Again, it's consistency. We have tried different guys there. We are looking for good decisions when to field the ball, when to let it hit, when to run up and fair catch it, when to try to return it. We work on those things constantly, but again, some of the time we have not gotten our point across to returners who have never done it on this level," Batoon stated. "Carlos (Davis) was our guy two years ago and then he tore up his knee and missed the whole year right before the season started, which threw us off some. This year, he has won the job again, but he has never done it before in live games.
"He's had some hiccups, but he has earned the job Tuesday-Thursday in practice. I thought Van (Jefferson) did an OK job against Georgia. He does a nice job fielding he ball, he has great hands, but he was inconsistent too because of inexperience. He will get better with age and experience, but right now it's Carlos' job, He's earned it, but we need him to be more consistent as well. Again, reps, reps, reps. It's our goal to find someone who we can hang our hat on and can give you an explosive play, but yet make good decisions fielding the ball. Los is our guy right now."
The return man is not the only one on the field that has a critical job in the return game - there are 10 others trying to help him. Batoon's assessment of them?
"In certain weeks, we have done a nice job. I thought we were good against Georgia with our hold up group winning our one-on-ones, but if the punter kicks it in the air for 4.5 seconds and it's a fair catch situation, that usually goes unnoticed," Corey stated. "There are a lot of variables with the kicking game because it's in a big space. We have been exposed some, but I think we are getting better and all we need to do is keep working and improving in all phases of special teams."
Ole Miss kickoff coverage team has been ranked low in the nation. Batoon was asked why.
"It's a combination of things. We are lacking consistency, with our kicker, who has missed some spots where we ask him to kick it when he hasn't been able to kick it out of the end zone, which we prefer every time, and we have some new kids going down to cover kicks and they have been out of position some. We have to do a better job of drilling them to do it right - that's our job as coaches," he explained. "All 11 pieces have to be doing the right things to be successful. It has to be the proper placement and angle of the kick, if he can't get a touchback, and the coverage has to be specific to the kick we ask him to kick.
"Again, we'd like to just kick it out of the end zone every time, but we have to get more consistent with our kicks. Sometimes he (Nathan Noble) is hitting them solid and sometimes he's not, but when he doesn't, we need him to get the direction and height we ask him to to give our coverage guys an edge."
In punt coverage, the Rebels had a major snafu against Alabama that led to an 85-yard return by the Tide, but the rest of the time - 18 other kicks - punting and coverage have been excellent.
"I think we have ironed most of that out. The punters are being more consistent with the placement of their punts and the young coverage guys are doing their assignments better now," Batoon added.
Through five games, portions of the special teams have been good. Other portions have not.
Hopefully, the open week and, as Batoon says, "reps, reps, reps" will help remedy some of the special team deficiencies,