Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner will be the first to admit the shortcomings of the Ole Miss offense.
But he's also quick to point out signs of improvement he has seen.
In a year like this, when wins have been few and far between, you take your victories wherever you can get them.
"In the past couple of games, we have shown glimpses of what I want us to be," said Werner. "We haven't had many three-and-outs, we are taking care of the ball better, we are running the ball fairly well and we have scored on our first possession both times (Auburn and NW State).
"We are not setting the world on fire offensively - we all know that, but right now I will take whatever improvement we can show. We are heading in the right direction."
During the open week and reflecting on the first 10 games of the year, Werner is pleased to have a running back (BenJarvus Green-Ellis) with a shot at breaking the elusive, for Ole Miss, 1000-yard barrier.
"Considering it's only been done here three times in school history, which I didn't know until recently, I am pleased with that statistic. My job is to help win ballgames, which we aren't doing. My job is to move the football and score points, which we are not doing well enough," he explained, "but BenJarvus getting that many yards does tell you we have at least one positive going for us.
"When I came in here, I told Coach (Ed) Orgeron that we would run the ball and we would have 1,000-yard rushers in this offense. That's the type of team we need to be, year-in and year-out. I'm proud of the way the kids have taken to that goal and that philosophy. Our offensive line believes in running the football, our backs certainly do and it's clicked most of the year in the running game - to a certain extent."
Dan is proud of the production of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bruce Hall, who has burst on the scene in the last couple of games to give the Rebel ground game a definite shot in the arm.
"Both of them are my kind of backs. They hit it up in there hard, always gain positive yardage, maximize plays and soften defenses up for us," he noted. "As far as BenJarvus getting 1,000 yards this year, I'll be happy if he gets it, but everything I will call in the next two games will be based on us trying to win, not pad some stats. If we are way ahead in the last game and BenJarvus needs a few more yards, we will try to help him get it. Until that, we are trying to win."
The "getting better" theme, Werner believes, has been basically across the board, including the wide receivers, who were as green as St. Patrick's Day earlier in the season.
"For the most part, the wide receivers have gotten better at recognizing defenses, adjusting their routes and catching the ball," he assessed. "There have been times when we've taken a step back, but we have always followed that up with another step forward.
"Here's my thing about the passing game. We have gotten better since the start of the year and need to finish strong. If we do that, then we will have an offseason and a spring and a summer for Brent (Schaeffer) and the other quarterbacks to get on the same page with the wideouts. They can fine-tune and build some chemistry and you have to think there will be a huge improvement by the time we kick off next year."
In recent weeks, with Dexter McCluster out, freshman Shay Hodge has seemingly moved a little ahead of redshirt freshman Michael Hicks. Or has he?
"All the wide receivers are kind of lumped in together, so the way we have been deciding on playing time lately has been who has done the best in practice that week," he stated. "In the past two or three weeks, Shay has done a little bit better and has kind of taken the ball and run with it."
Behind the scenes, because we don't see them on Saturday, what's up with the development of backup QBs Billy Tapp, Cliff Davis and Michael Herrick?
"I'm pleased with how all those guys are working. They come to all the meetings and take all the tests the starter and top backup (Seth Adams) do. They don't get the reps the top two do, but I can see talent," Werner closed. "The thing they have to show us in spring is can they handle 11-on-11.
"By that, I mean it's a whole lot different when they are running the scout team and we point to where we want them to throw the ball. We'll see how they react when we say 'there's 11 guys out there - find the open receiver.' That's tougher and something we'll look for in spring.
"Cliff obviously has a strong arm. He can stand flat-footed and throw it 70 yards and Michael has gained 10-15 pounds since he has been here and Billy had a very good spring and continues to learn the offense. We'll see, but I like all three of them."
The Rebels face LSU in Baton Rouge Saturday and then close out the season hosting MSU the following Saturday.
Werner said it's important to finish the season on a high note.
"We need to win them both and head into recruiting and the offseason with some momentum," he closed. "That's our goal and I hope the offense continues to improve along that route."
Dan Werner -
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