Austin: 'We have to protect the ball'

Rebel Offensive Coordinator Kent Austin is frantically working to try and solve some Rebel offensive issues. Read his thoughts inside.

Ole Miss had some obvious offensive issues in the Auburn game last Saturday.

Turnovers, mistakes and getting into too many third-and-long situations are the main areas of attack this week for Rebel Offensive Coordinator Kent Austin.

"We went back and did an analysis of what we are doing well across the board - all positions and all phases. We identified what we are doing well and what we are not," Austin began. "We've found things we are struggling with and are going to throw them out.

"If it means we are going to have to go into games with a more limited package, that's what we will have to do."

Number one on the agenda besides strategy, however, is protecting the football.

"It is amazing how well we have done when we have protected the football. We had a couple of turnovers against Arkansas and still did well, but the point is you have to string first downs together to get the opportunities to make big plays and get opportunities to score," he explained. "You can't do that if you don't protect the ball.

"The second thing is we have to protect the quarterback by holding up up front. Next, we have to stay out of third-and-long. Teams are loading up against us on third-and-long. We have to be more efficient on first and second downs."

Austin scoffed at the fact that it's been stated by national analysts that QB Jevan Snead is locking in on receivers in his progressions.

"What would they know? Seriously. Give me a break. It's ridiculous. People who are saying that could not come into my office and draw up one thing we are doing and explain it - not one thing," he stated after chuckling. "But they are analysts. What a joke."

Austin says the issue is needing more development in the receiving corps and figuring out a way - still - to replace Mike Wallace's production.

"We are still a work in progress at receiver. We are still trying to replace Mike's production and we knew that all along," Kent said. "We knew moving Dexter McCluster to tailback would take away receiver production but we felt we had to do that, but it leaves us short in receiver production.

"But I do feel we are getting there. At times, defenses are getting more aggressive against us because we are not lining up the same speed out wide as we were last year. Whether or not you go deep all the time is irrelevant. The threat of it is what is important. It's like defense - you don't have to blitz every down, the threat of the blitz is just as effective. Offenses have to account for it. We have been able to get behind some defenses this year, but we have to do it more consistently and create the threat of that."

Austin also dissed the notion that TB Brandon Bolden has not been as productive as anticipated.

"Brandon is a guy we count on in all three phases of the game - blocking, running and catching - and he's been solid doing those things," Austin said. "Behind Dexter, he is our most complete back. All our guys have had off plays. Nobody has ever played a perfect game yet at any position. Brandon is a productive back for us."

It's been suggested the Rebs do not attack the middle of the field in the passing game as much as last year. Austin says it's not because those plays aren't called.

"We have called middle routes quite a bit, actually," he said. "Some of those have not worked due to sacks or being hurried in the pocket and some have been because defenses have squeezed us and taken some of those routes away.

"Be careful making a general comment in analysis of what's going on out there. I promise you there is a lot more to it than just saying we are reluctant to go over the middle. There are a lot of reasons that account for things that are happening or not happening."

The subject of replacing Snead with backup Nathan Stanley also came up.

"We have considered it, sure. You have to understand that you have to be careful from a psychological standpoint with a guy you are counting on to win football games for you," Austin assessed. "First, it's the head coach's call and I will respect whatever Houston says. We have talked about it. You have to make sure if you do it has to be done the right way and that there is a purpose behind it because we are still going to rely on Jevan to win games for us."

Is Stanley ready?

"He hasn't played very much. I guess we'd find out if he had to, but I don't know at this point," said Austin.

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