Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator Kent Austin knows what is facing the Rebel offense when they travel to Nashville Saturday to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores' defense.
"They play with a lot of energy and effort and they are strong up front," Austin began. "They run to the ball and are very sound schematically. They play with outstanding effort."
Besides matching Vandy's intensity, Kent said, the Rebels will have to play error-free football.
"We have to match, or beat, their effort. We also cannot have any assignment errors and we certainly can't have any turnovers," Austin stated, perhaps remembering 2008 when the Rebs turned the ball over six times to the Dores.
Across the board improvement from the offense, based on their last effort, will be required.
"We have to become more consistent, throughout. Our quarterback, receivers, backs and offensive line have to be more consistent," he assessed. "We have to eliminate the assignment errors. Right now, we are not good enough to have those types of mistakes and beat a good defense.
"So far, we've had a good week of practice and have made good decisions, especially under center. Jevan (Snead) is making really good decisions this week."
Austin said the offensive staff is cognizant of where the issues were in the previous outing and how to make amends.
"We're very, very, very aware where we can help put our guys in better positions to be successful," Kent continued. "We will be in those positions come game time."
About the only consistency the Rebels had against the Gamecocks was when they fed the ball to Dexter McCluster from the tailback slot.
"We always knew he could do it, but it's a balance. We have to be careful with how much we use him in that position. We cannot lose him to injury and we have to be aware of that. Tailback takes a lot more pounding, so we have to measure that through the course of the season and in individual games," Austin explained. "But at the same time, we also have to win football games and do everything we can to put ourselves in a position to win and Dexter is a big part of that. It's all about balance with him, for now."
The Rebel staff took the redshirt off freshman TB Rodney Scott. More action in the immediate future?
"He may get more work, but right now our focus will be on being more assignment-sound. Not that Rodney wouldn't be, but we just want to make sure when we use him we aren't taxing him too much mentally and he can do what we are asking him to do without bogging down mentally," Kent said.
Austin is excited to have TE Gerald Harris back in the fold and hopes to get good use out of him this weekend.
"I am glad to have him back and hopeful he will be able to play at least some. He will help us a lot. We are also pleased that (FB) Andy (Hartmann) is making progress. We need him back too as quickly as possible," Austin evaluated.
All attention then turned to Snead, who said Monday he has to work harder on playing in the moment and putting the last play behind him.
"To me, the number one thing for a quarterback is to play the next play and forget the last one. The last play is not relevant to the next one. The most important play of the game is the next one, not the one already behind you," Kent noted. "You have to learn to forget quickly. It does not matter what happened before - drop the baggage, drop the pressure and just play.
"Also, you can't carry the burden of the whole offense on your shoulders. You have 10 other guys out there."
Austin has reminded Snead of those things this week.
"Every quarterback's personality is different. Jevan is a little more high-strung than our other guys. Jevan wants to be perfect on every play. He needs to let the game come to him more and just execute what we ask him to execute without worrying about the other 10 doing their jobs," said Kent. "Focus in on executing the next play to the best of his ability. When he plays one play at a time, he's more relaxed and more effective.
"I am not going to discount how hard it is to play quarterback on this level, but you have to be mentally tough to do it. When you get hit in the chin a few times and you are not having success on offense, the perception is the pressure has increased more than it really has. You have to be able to drop all that and play each play as a fresh play. It's hard, but the great ones do that. When bad things happen, as competitive as Jevan is, he tends to push a little harder as opposed to relaxing. He needs to find that balance."
Austin was quick to point out, and repeat, that the woes of the offense were distributed equally.
"It was not just Jevan," he said. "We have to be better up front, we have to be better receivers and backs," Austin added. "It starts with me first. I have to put them in a position to be successful, number one. Then each individual player has to do his job for the collective to be successful. That's how it works.
"It's an entire effort. It can't work if two or three players are not taking care of their assignments. It does not work that way on offense. Sometimes we just get beaten physically, which is a credit to the defense we are facing. But basically, we all have to execute better, starting with me and the positions I put the players in."
The key elements have been identified. Better execution, all 11 on the same page, and relaxing to let the game come to them.
Austin expects improvement in all those areas this Saturday.
Kent Austin -
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