QB & Offense breakdown

Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Dan Werner installed roughly 80% of his new offense this spring and was pleased with the improvement the players showed from start to finish in the 15-practice session, but there is definite room for more improvement during the offseason and in August practice. Read about it inside.

Editor's Note: The following is Part V in our series of Rebel football assistant coaches analyzing their respective positions after spring training. These stories ran in the Grove Bowl issue that was handed out at the game. They have been updated.

It's apparent the influence of Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner – and his OL Coach Art Kehoe – has been a good one.

This time last year, the Rebels were searching for some consistency in the running game that never materialized throughout the 2005 season. Already, coaches are seeing vast "improvement." They aren't ready to declare anything absolute in the run game, but they are happy with the direction it's going.

"I think the improvement of the running game from the start of spring to the end of spring has been the most significant thing we have been able to achieve," said Werner. "Our offense is no different from any offense – if you can run the football, you have a chance to succeed. To this point, we feel we are making strides in being able to rush the football effectively.

"We are not a finished product in any area of the offense right now, but we didn't expect to be. We were hoping to lay a foundation and set a tone in spring and I think we have accomplished that."

Werner said there have been several keys to the move forward.

"I like the mindset Coach Kehoe is instilling in our offensive linemen. He's keeping things simple and stressing good fundamentals and aggression. The OL seem to like the blocking schemes and the tempo," he continued. "Also, it hasn't hurt our cause to have a back like BenJarvus (Green-Ellis). He is in the same caliber as the backs we had at Miami. He's experienced, mature and tough and he has good physical skills. He can run over you or run around you and is instinctive enough to know which to do in different situations.

"We also like what is happening with our tight ends. Robert Lane is a football player and the backups are guys with experience who can help us in the run game and in the passing game."

The passing game is a different story. There has been progress made, but Werner is looking for more.

"In the last scrimmage, we had guys getting open, but we either didn't get the ball too many times or they had too many drops. We have to get that straightened out in a hurry," he explained. "In their defense, we have put a lot on them in a short period of time so they can use the offseason to work on fine-tuning what we want to run. This first exposure isn't a time to expect great results. We have work to do in that area. Lane has been steady and some of the wide receivers have shown me flashes, but we've got to keep coming in that area."

Werner has been pleasantly surprised with the quarterbacks he's had to work with in spring. Everyone, including Dan, is awaiting the arrival of Brent Schaeffer, but until that happens, he's pleased with the effort of the three signal-callers he's working with now.

Quarterback – Seth Adams – Junior, 6-4, 215 – "Seth is coming along nicely. He's starting to pick up the offense better and he's reading his progressions well," Dan stated. "When he gets his feet set, he throws a good ball. I feel comfortable with him in there and you can tell he's starting to feel more and more comfortable each day."

Billy Tapp – Redshirt freshman, 6-4, 225 – "Billy is a real smart player. We do a lot of things with the run in terms of checking that will be important to our success. Billy has a feel for that. He has good instincts of what to do in different situations," Werner noted.

Conner Wise – Sophomore, 6-4, 200 – "Conner is a good kid who is working hard. He can provide us with depth. In the spring, he did not get as many reps as Seth and Billy because they came out of the gate quicker and were designated one and two quickly, but Conner has some skills and we are glad to have him," Werner ended.

Our Take: There is certainly more razzle-dazzle in modern offensive football than there was 20 years ago. But we continue to believe being solid up front and having, at the bare minimum, the threat of a running game are critical to offensive success. From that perspective, the Rebels have made very good advancements during the spring. A new attitude and look up front gives us hope on the OL. Robert Lane is a major asset and will be a playmaker for the Rebel offense at tight end. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Mico McSwain should give the Rebs a potent backfield combination, unless Mico is moved to wide receiver, which is a possibility in order to get both he and Green-Ellis on the field at the same time. On the flip side, the quarterbacks and wide receivers have a lot to prove and are a definite work in progress. We always keep in mind that help is on the way in the form of Schaeffer and several young wide receivers, but since this piece is about the results of spring training, we have to say – from our limited viewing time – we were hoping for more in regard to those two areas. The good side of that equation is that there is time to get it right and the cavalry – we believe – is on the way. P.S. – Werner, Kehoe, Freeze, Wilson and Lubick give the offensive side of the ball one of the most cohesive staffs we have seen here in quite some time. They genuinely seem to enjoy working together.

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