Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo

Ole Miss coordinators discuss early going of spring training

The Rebels are just two days into the 15-day spring football session, and the pads don't go on until next week, but the two new coordinators - DC Wesley McGriff and OC Phil Longo - are optimistic about what they have seen so far.

Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator Phil Longo said prior to spring training it would take four days to install his entire offensive system. 

He's halfway there and feeling good about where the Rebels are at this early juncture of the install and spring practice.

"I feel good about the way the guys are picking things up. They are scrambling a little bit and will the next two days, but that’s to be expected. The fifth day, things will begin to clear up more," said Longo. "We made some mistakes today (Thursday) but those are things we can get cleaned up. Right now, for having a new staff and a new offense with guys who did something different terminology-wise a year ago, I like where we are through day two.

"We have new terminology, new formations and new plays and everything is a little Greek to them, but they did a good job of getting ready for spring training. We knew the force-feeding and quick install would be difficult, but day four we’ll come out of the tunnel a little and into the light. Things will consistently get better from practice five on."

Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson

Ole Miss is running "25-26" plays right now and running them at a quick pace, which pleases Longo.

"The tempo and pace is good," he noted. “We’re a little chicken-with-our-heads-cut-off syndrome right now because we’re running around trying to please coaches and think fast. As I said, as the days click by, they’ll gain confidence, the timing will get better and we’ll do more technique work. We’ll see the sense of urgency increase as they grasp things more and more.

"I've been running this same system for 20 years and we’re on pace with everywhere else I’ve been, so, as I said, I feel good where we are right now."

Any individuals popped up yet for Longo?

"Coach (Matt) Luke is happy with three or four of the younger linemen and, of course, his veterans are doing a nice job," Longo continued. "The guys identified by the offensive staff that were here before who were guys we can depend on have turned out to be as dependable as they said. Markell Pack, DaMarkus Lodge have been bright spots. Some of the known commodities have been good. Shea Patterson has looked good the first two days. 

"The first two days are the heaviest, so anyone standing out now has really paid attention."

Longo said he was happy with all the running backs so far, sans pads of course.

"When I first met Coach (Derrick) Nix, he told me his guys would run downhill, would run with good pad level and would be aggressive and even though we haven’t been in pads, I can see that mindset. They’re learning some simple reads right now and when we put the pads on, they will start to understand and gain confidence," he noted. "It's hard to run power with no pads. Power in t-shirts is not going to look real good. I like our backs."

Ole Miss defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff

Wesley McGriff also gave an early evaluation of his first two days as the defensive coordinator of the Rebels.

"The biggest thing is I’m pleased with the football IQ of the young men with the installation," he began. "The guys are doing a tremendous job of grasping that information and retaining it. It's also translating to the field. We’re going to have some mistakes, but we’ll coach them through that.

"They play the next play. In other words, they don't let the first play beat them twice. They may get beat, but then they get back up and get after the next play. That's what great defensive players do because you’re going to get beat, but you can't hang your head."

McGriff also mentioned an individual or two. Or three.

"Marquis Haynes is really providing some leadership. Breeland Speaks is doing some real good things and is a talented football player," McGriff stated. "Zedrick Woods is stepping up, as well as Myles Hartsfield. A lot of guys are really grasping the install, and that's a good sign."

The corners have already taken a blow with Jalen Julius out for spring with a broken forearm and Ken Webster still out of football after a season-ending injury in last year's opener, but McGriff likes what he sees so far.

"Corner is the hardest position on the team, in my opinion, so there’s a lot to learn and it's too early to judge, but our guys are gaining some confidence and are gaining some technique," he said. "Myles has been a big surprise, playing with confidence, contesting the ball, very strong at the catch point — he’s showing he has the ability to play at a high level. Montrell Custis is also a guy we feel can play corner.

"Those two have the skill sets to play corner, we believe. As coaches, we have to do two things — get the right guys on the bus first, but then put them in the right seat (position). We won't have a second team corner who is our best safety on the bench. Everyone in the secondary is learning the Star position and from there we can find out if they can go outside."

Ole Miss DL Qaadir Sheppard

McGriff was asked about the two young DEs, Charles Wiley and Qaadir Sheppard.

"It's early, but I'll say this — our early goal is to finish every play and and every drill and they’re doing that. I’m anxious to see them in pads and see how their motor is when the bullets start flying, but I certainly like their look and think they have great potential,” he said.

The linebackers were criticized last year for a lack of production, from within and from the outside. McGriff's take so far?

"Obviously, we’re not in pads, so it’s hard to say, but they’re running around well and competing," he said. “We’re going to keep them in the box more and put adjustments on the secondary more. That will help them. They will only have one job — to play downhill and fit their gap. We need them to get assignment sound. 

"Coach (Bradley Dale) Peveto is doing a great job with them. He’s a sound football coach with structure. He has rules for those guys to get lined up and he really understands the position. I think having him as their coach will be great for them."

McGriff appreciates the tempo of Longo's offense.

"It gives us a chance to push our guys to the edge," McGriff closed. "I can promise you the game will be slower than our practices and we embrace that. We welcome it. They force you to play fast and with technique and it really challenges you. It is teaching our guys to play the next play as hard as the last one.

"As fast as we’re going now, we’ll be yawning when the opposing team goes into a two-minute drill. I love the offense we’re going against. They give us a lot of formations and movements and that's good."

Two days down, 13 to go.

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