Feel the Rhythm
After seeing the Ole Miss defense dominate the first scrimmage of fall Saturday, it was pretty evident last season's prolific scoring offense hadn't quite knocked off the early rust expected in preseason camp.
Sure, lighting up the scoreboard in the team's annual spring game is nice. But finding cohesiveness along an offensive line replacing three starters can prove much more difficult when matched against one of the stouter defenses the conference is sure to offer in practice.
"We jumped offsides and didn't snap the ball well. We weren't clean and didn't make enough plays. We didn't get in a rhythm," OL coach Mike Markuson said of the offense's scrimmage performance.
"But since then, we've had some real good, physical practices and are getting better. We're seeing a lot of different looks and our defense is very fast, so it's helping us get better. We'll get ready to go, but we have to be patient and correct as we go. We're getting more physical, but we have to keep working on that."
Even for an offense that averaged 32.1 points per game a year ago, the infusion of old and new has obviously slowed the unit in terms of consistency.
Further, the Rebels are no longer afforded the luxury of Michael Oher, Maurice Miller and Darryl Harris – three mainstays within the line rotation over their respective careers in Oxford.
Sophomore Bradley Sowell, long considered the heir apparent to Oher at left tackle, has been the focal point of much attention in August due to an up-and-down spring. With front depth a concern, the Hernando native's progress is critical towards the offense regaining its 2008 rhythm.
"We're picking things up a lot this week," said Sowell. "Last week we were struggling picking up our calls, but now we are smooth there and that has allowed us to be more physical like in middle drills and other contact drills.
"We were rusty at first and trying to get our legs back, but now we are making good strides. It also doesn't hurt us that we are going against great defensive linemen every single day. It's tough, but we are starting to catch up speed-wise with them. We are very lucky to have guys like that to go against. They make us better."
Led by an offense that finished second in the conference in rushing and fourth in passing last season, Ole Miss reeled off six-straight wins to close out a stellar 9-4 campaign.
For quarterback Jevan Snead and crew, things were clicking on all cylinders by season's end, culminating in a 47-34 washing of then-ranked No. 7 Texas Tech.
While ideal timing and distinctive flow have yet to surface in camp, Snead believes the Rebel offense can rekindle the magic in time for the team's season opener against Memphis Sept. 6.
"Last year, it took us a little while to get going. But I feel like this year is a different story," the junior said. "We've had a year in the system and we had a great spring. We had a great summer as well. The guys who've stepped in and filled spots, they've been here and have some experience now. I really don't think it'll take us that long to get on a roll. The coaches have done a great job of getting us ready and preparing us, so I feel like we're ready to go."
According to sophomore running back Brandon Bolden, the unit is already taking steps in the right direction.
"Basically, we just have to continue playing with each other," he said. "We lost three key guys across the offensive line, so there is obviously going to be an adjustment. They just have to get into a rhythm. As an offense, we just have to get into a rhythm of playing with each other.
"I feel a lot better (about the offense). We're more in-tune almost. We're more in synch. It's just a matter of getting back into that same rhythm we had in the spring game. But we're getting back towards it."
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