Ole Miss Offensive Line Coach Mike Markuson has had his guys on a pretty good roll for several weeks in a row.
The Rebel forward wall has been very productive in the run game and they have protected QB Jevan Snead sufficiently against some of the best defensive fronts in the SEC and nation.
But Markuson, a longtime veteran of trench warfare in the SEC, is quick to point out it's no time to rest on their laurels.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs are coming to Oxford and their defensive front is one, in his estimation, to be reckoned with.
"They have played very well this year, they really have," Mike said. "They are quick and aggressive. They play with abandon, they run to the ball and they create problems for people.
"They play exceptionally hard and they use a lot of different fronts that you have to prepare for."
Markuson said the Rebels will have to try to "prepare for everything," even though that is difficult to do.
"They will have a sound plan with two or three different things they will try to do, but it's our job to prepare for everything they have shown this year and then try to sort out what they are doing in the game and adjust accordingly," Markuson noted. "We will have to execute what we are doing.
"We always want to be able to run it, but we need to be able to do both against MSU. We had problems running the ball early against LSU, so we threw it. They didn't do anything schematically that threw us off, they are just good, so we had to adjust our plan early until we could figure out some ways to get some running lanes in the second half."
This week, Markuson has moved senior LG Darryl Harris into the top spot at that position, but Reid Neely is getting "nearly as many reps" with the top offensive unit.
"Darryl deserves to play and Reid understands. Darryl is a senior and he's played well, despite having an elbow issue," Mike noted. "Darryl has been very good this year and deserves to go out in style."
Senior Left Tackle Michael Oher was announced as finalist for the Conerly Trophy this week. Mike belives he's deserving of that honor.
"He has progressed a lot this year. Mike has taken our coaching and been a very good soldier for us," Markuson noted. "He's done a lot of good things and has worked hard.
"I really did not know how he was going to react this year. We kind of had to beg him to come back and I thought he might be a pain in the britches to be honest with you, but he hasn't been anything but good. He's attentive and works hard. You can't ask much more."
Mike has seen a difference in the strength level of Oher this year.
"That's a credit to Mike and (S&C Coach) Don Decker. He's not as strong as he's going to get, but he's a lot stronger," said Mike. "Here's the deal - I'm his third line coach. There's no continuity in that and he hasn't had the chance to have one guy coaching him his whole college career.
"Mike has had to change what he's doing three times. There's no telling where he'd be if one OL coach had him his whole career. Under those circumstances, he has done remarkably well."
The Rebel OL, Mike says, is just now starting to hit its stride due to those continuity issues and it's fun to watch.
"To see the look in those kids' faces after a win, it's very rewarding," Markuson closed. "All the seniors, all the guys, to see them down at LSU, with all the tears and the laughter and knowing what they have been through, it's been special. Incredible. As a coach, I'll never forget those looks."
There's one more "look" Markuson wants - tomorrow against the Bulldogs.
He knows it will be hard-earned, but he's looking forward to it.
Mike Markuson -
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