Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner had a chance to look at the film of Saturday's Meet The Rebels scrimmage and came away with some good impressions.
He also went over some areas he wants to see improvement.
But first he talked extensively about the progress of Quarterback Brent Schaeffer, who did not participate in Saturday's workout.
"Brent's progressing every day. His timing is getting better and I think we are right on track.
"Brent knows everything we have in. He's right there with everyone else and there's very little left to put in. Each week we will tweak things depending on who we play, but we are at the same spot we'd be with our installation as if he had been here for two years."
Dan has known about Brent since he was in high school.
"I knew he was a great athlete, but I never realized how good a quarterback he is. As I have said before, he's a quarterback first and an athlete second," Werner continued. "I didn't get to study him enough in high school to understand what he was reading, but I was surprised when he got here how well he understands defenses and coverages and knows his reads and knows how to look off defenders as well as he does all those things. He is reading defenses and doing what it takes to be a good QB, not just running around out there making plays on his athletic ability."
Werner said Brent is way further along right now than he anticipated.
"He's done remarkable for two weeks, but it's not like he's finished and ready to roll. We have two more intensive weeks ahead of us and have to keep on going, but that's for any QB this time of the year," he continued. "He's way ahead of where I thought he'd be. And I am not real concerned about him worrying about the expectations on him. He's mature - he started in the SEC two years ago. He probably didn't know what cover three was then, so you have to believe he has more confidence in himself. I don't have any concerns with him handling it, to be honest with you."
Dan also believes the team has accepted Brent as the offensive leader.
"When he first got here, I told him he couldn't step in the huddle and just take charge. The other guys had been here all summer working and he had to earn their respect. I think he has done that," Dan said. "When he stepped in the huddle and knew the plays, they gained some respect for him. He was making audibles the first day he was here. That has helped him with his teammates. They also see him leading by example by putting in extra work on the field and off. That goes a long way with his peers."
How much difference does a Brent Schaeffer make?
"The QB is the key to this offense. He makes it work. He makes my job a lot easier," Dan stated. "I'm glad he's here. He was our guy during recruiting and I'm glad he picked us.
"He's done everything we have asked of him since the day he signed. He's also gone beyond that. He wants to be good and I like to see players like that dedicated."
Werner was also impressed with backup QB Seth Adams, who directed the first offense in Brent's absence.
"I was hoping he'd show up like he did. He made some really good throws," Dan noted. "I was very impressed with the way he played. We told all the QBs last spring they were fighting for the second-team job, but my thing is that all the backups have to get ready in case something happens. If it does, you're it. We put Seth in that position Saturday and he stepped in and did a great job.
"That gives me more comfort if something did happen to Brent. It showed me Seth knows the offense, he knows the checks and he can deliver. We feel real comfortable with him right now."
Werner was not overwhelmed with the wide receivers Saturday, but he says they are making progress.
"We just have to keep giving them reps. There are no magic potions. We just have to keep putting them in a bunch of different situations and coverages and throwing them the ball as much as we can," he explained. "When you have a bunch of new guys and a QB who hasn't thrown to them, it takes time and is obviously a concern.
"Saturday, we had too many drops. I don't want to see any. We are working some drills to rectify that and, as I said, we are going to keep giving them a lot of reps until all that is corected."
On the offensive line, Werner was pleased.
"We came off the ball well and our pass protection was not perfect by any stretch, but the QBs had time to step up and make some throws most of the time. The receivers made a few nice catches, the tight ends made a bunch of catches and the running backs ran hard," he assessed. "I'm pleased with where we are right now."
The OL had a new "starter" in the lineup Saturday - frosh John Jerry at right guard.
"He picked things up quickly Saturday. He was making his reads correctly, pulling, blocking, everything. RG is not an easy position for a young player to pick up. He did a real good job," Dan stated.
Werner is very pleased with the play of the tight ends.
"I told them when I got here that if they did their jobs, I would get them the ball more. I told them they would be a big part of the offense if they would block, run, catch and do the things good TEs do. If not, I was honest with them and told them they weren't going to get the ball if they didn't do those things," he explained. "They have responded and will get the ball."
Werner said there is a caveat to that, however. The wide receivers have to produce in order to keep defenses from double teaming the TE.
"In this scheme, everyone has to do their part. I have had tight ends doubled before. The receivers have to be licking their chops then because they will get single coverage," he continued. "So they have to work hand in hand. Again, we have to get the wide receivers up to par.
"But one thing about a preseason scrimmage is that the whole offense was in and we just called plays. In games, we will narrow that down to about 25% of it for that week, but the defense won't know which 25%. That will give those guys a better chance to hone in on what we are doing week to week. We will practice that all week long and it will be etched in their minds. I think that will really help some of these younger wide receivers - the mental load during the season will not be what it is now."
Overall, Dan was encouraged based on Saturday's scrimmage, but. . .
"I take into account we are only a little over halfway finished with preseason camp. We have areas that need improving, but where we are right now I am happy with," he closed.
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