There's no reason to dredge up details of the past when the results were not good, but for comparison's sake, a safe general statement about the Ole Miss passing game is that it was poor last year and is a true weapon this year.
Why the major transformation?
Again, without pointing specific fingers, Rebel Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner believes there are "a lot" of reasons.
"Last year we were plagued by poor protection, dropped passes and bad throws," Werner stated. "It seemed we seldom went three-for-three, so to speak, on a pass play. We seemed to get two out of the three necessary components for a successful pass play done and would break down in the other one. The end result was an incompletion."
This season, things are obviously different. The Rebels are in the upper half of the SEC in passing offense and an offense that was predicted to be run dominated in the preseason has become more and more balanced each week, if not leaning toward the pass over the run.
"That's what happens when opposing defenses don't respect your passing game and you turn out to be pretty good at it," Dan noted. "We've put in a few new plays, but really the success we have had has come from basic football fundamentals: protect the passer, make a good throw, run a good route, catch the ball.
"Certainly there are other factors like being in the right play, making the right checks and reads, but we've got players who understand what we are doing now and understand all they have to do is execute and things will work well."
Werner is not one to heap praise on any individual - he believes in the importance of all components working together and the only way to attain a modicum of success is for that to happen, but he is absolutely pleased with the play of the individual parts and pieces of his passing offense.
"I don't think there's any doubt we have shored up our protection packages versus how we protected last year," he assessed. "And as everyone can see, our receivers have improved so much it's like night and day. Mike Wallace has become the deep threat we felt he could be, Shay Hodge is catching everything thrown his way, knock on wood, Marshay Green has been reliable and Mike Hicks is doing better and better each game."
Then there is the triggerman, senior QB Seth Adams.
"There's not much more I can say about Seth except he's the captain of the ship and it's going in the right direction. He's been very good at managing the game and he understands the necessity of taking care of the ball. He's had some turnovers, but not many," Dan evaluated. "He's made some great throws, particularly with the deep ball, and he understands and executes getting us in good plays and out of bad ones. His decision-making has been very good through five games."
Werner pointed to the Rebs' opening drive of the third quarter against Georgia - an 86-yarder that took over nine minutes - as a thing of beauty.
"That is what I think we are capable of. It was exactly how we drew it up and exactly how we wanted it executed," he added, "but I have to tell you, I am lucky as an OC because we had a fourth down on that drive that most head coaches would have wanted to kick a field goal. Coach O told me ahead of time we were going for it if we had that situation and I was able to plan my calls knowing that was on his mind."
Dan looks forward to seeing the entire offense continue to evolve against Louisiana Tech this Saturday, but he knows there will be challenges.
"They are a physical defense with two 300-pound DTs hunkered in the middle and a 9-man front philosophy. They don't want you running on them, period," said Werner, who coached at La Tech in the early 1990s. "They have played in games like this before and are not intimidated by the surroundings. They will come in here fired up and ready to play. I know - I have been on the other side of this coin before."
Werner said the Bulldogs will draw their safeties up tight and it will be paramount to loosen them up with the pass and "get the safeties blocked."
"We'll have an extra player in the box to deal with, but we have to get it done," he stated. "We want to keep them guessing and be as unpredictable as possible. We need to keep them on their heels and take away their aggression."
Dan Werner -
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