Analysis: Offense

For the first couple of weeks - 7 or 8 practices - of spring training, the Rebel offense didn't get much done. The second half of spring was a little different story, but there were mitigating circumstances. Was it enough? Read about it inside.

During spring training, the Ole Miss defense, for the most part, was blowing and going.

The offense? Well, for the most part again, they was a different story.

For a couple of weeks, they were, to put it bluntly, frighteningly unproductive.

The Rebel coaches were faced with replacing the whole middle - both guards, center, quarterback, starting tailback and fullback.

The veteran defensive front preyed and feasted on the mismatch, for a while.

Around the 8th or 9th practice of the available 15, however, the offense making some plays. Not a lot of plays, mind you, but enough to drop the frustration level that had plagued them to that point in spring.

There were a couple of things working there.

One, the guys up front got tired of getting their brains beaten in. Two, Coach Houston Nutt called off the defensive dogs a little bit, limiting the pressure packages, twists and movement DC Tyrone Nix employs in "real" situations.

Nutt knew the offense needed a shot in the arm and some confidence. He could see the frustration level getting to be too much.

With OL Coach Mike Markuson, and the rest, grinding their troops daily, and a little success achieved, the offense started to do more and more good things until, toward the end of spring, they were even making some plays against all of Nix's defensive scheme.

The end result was the Rebel offense made a lot, a whole lot, of improvement.

Bobby Massie

The OL got a little swagger to them and that was infectious. QB Nathan Stanley had more time to throw, the backs got some daylight to run to and the wideouts had more time to find openings in the secondary.

Presto, bingo, positive plays.

Having said that, and given proper kudos for progress and improvement, this Rebel offense is not a finished product.

The teams they will be facing next fall will not care if they are freshmen, sophomores or babysitters. At this point, they aren't ready for Nicholas Cage, much less Nicholas Saban.

One strength, as we see it, right now are the two tackles - Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie, but Massie has some strength work to do. (Remember, he's just a sophomore and only has a half a season under his belt. He looks like Goliath, but he too is not immune to rocks - yet.)

An another area to feel good about is the quality, number and different skill sets of the running backs. I don't envy the juggling job RB Coach Derrick Nix is going to have to do to utilize them all the best way for the team to succeed, but at least he has material to work with.

The wideouts, at this point, are not what we'd call a strength, but neither is it a weakness. They could become a real good group in the summer and in August, but they have some edges to sand and smooth.

Z Mason

The tight end situation is much the same. Real good in the passing game, work to do in the run game, which is vital to the position. Ten offseason pounds added to Ferbia Allen and more flexibility for Z. Mason and that position could rise up as well.

The quarterbacks, as expected, remain a work in progress. Stanley came a long way in spring due to a gazillion reps. QB Coach David Rader, who is paid to analyze the QBs, is pleased with their improvement.

Even a novice can tell he has poise and presence, but he's got to become crisper in his execution. Raymond Cotton has some catching up to do, but is obviously a playmaker when he gets something embedded in his brain. The missed time this spring hurt him, but he can catch up.

At fullback, E.J. Epperson and H.R. Greer started slowly but made strides toward the end of being as physical as Nix wants them to be. It was sporadic, but it was also evident they can do it. Consistency is their key.

Now to the middle of the OL.

Right Guard Rishaw Johnson can be the best OL the Rebs have. He had a productive spring and is as athletic and as strong as you'd want. His deal is to get a better grasp of every-down fire - no plays off.

At center, A.J. Hawkins got a gazillion reps and needs a gazillion more. At left guard, Alex Washington has to shed 20-25 pounds - has to, no ifs, ands or buts. When he gets to 325-330 pounds even he will be amazed at the difference.

A cluster of young guys are lurking on the perimeter. Their task is universal to all young OL - get stronger, get bigger, get more hostile. Good job going in that direction so far, but their clocks have to be ticking in double time for them to be a factor in the 2010 season.

The bottom line, the lick log, is that good improvement was seen in spring training and that was a must, more critical to the 2010 season than anything else as it relates to spring training.

But much, much more has to be accomplished between now and the season opener.

The good thing is that they realisitaclly, with no illusions, know where they stand and they now feel, after some late success - even if some of it was manipulated and manufactured by the coaches - in spring, they can get it done.

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