5 Wants For Ole Miss and Mississippi State Going Into The Spring Game

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Spring practices are running strong in Oxford and Starkville. New players, new coaches, and a new year is underway for the two main Mississippi schools. This two part article will analyze the five wanted desires for each fan base heading into The Grove Bowl and Super Bulldog Weekend.

Ole Miss

5) Progression of the linebackers in a new linebacker heavy package
Sanogo With The “Fins Up” Gesture

After the departure of Wesley McGriff from the defensive coordinator position, Coach Luke brought in a former National Coach of the Year and defensive mind to fill the void with former Colorado Head Coach, Mike Macyntire. “Coach Mac” brings to the Rebels a base 3-4 defense. For those that may not be savvy with that term well here ya go: a 3-4 defense is a package that involves three linemen (End, Nose, End) and four linebackers. Considering the Rebels seem to have once decent linebacker (Mohamed Sanogo) returning to this year’s team the task can seem daunting. Defensive Ends, Charles Wiley and Qaadir Sheppard, have been taking reps as outside backers. Rushing the backfield should come natural to them but, it will need to be seen if they are able to drop back in coverage. The 2019 recruiting class will bring in the aid of Brenden Williams, Lakia Henry and Eric Jeffries to the position and don’t be shocked to see former Tupelo High School standout, Tavario Standifer, to drop down in the box.

4) Reloading the Offensive Line
The Rebels are seeing the four of their five offensive linemen leave for the NFL Draft and graduation. Greg Little, Sean Rawlings, Jordan Sims and Javon Patterson are gone which will have the Rebel offensive line not only losing a lot of talent but, losing a lot of experience. Coach Luke and Bicknell made the ditches a focus on the 2019 recruiting class, signing 7 offensive linemen. Expect junior center, Eli Johnson, to take over the duties of the snap for the departing Rawlings. For the left tackle position I feel Bryce Matthews to have the edge. For the guard position players such as Royce Newman, Chandler Tuitt, and Ben Brown to take the battle all the way into fall camp for the two guard positions left vacant by Patterson and Sims.
3) The NWO staying Nasty
Ole Miss Wide Outs aka “The NWO”

You dub yourself the nickname “Nasty Wide Outs” for one of two reasons. The first that you are so talented at your position that it is just plain nasty for opposing defenders. The second is that you have poor hygiene. I can only vouch for the the first mentioned statement. The trio of A.J. Brown, DaMarkus Lodge, and D.K. Metcalf were one of the most dominating factions of receivers in college football last season. Here we are to this season and all three are heading to the National Football League. The Rebels will return Elijah Moore, who saw a good amount of playing time last season. Expect Moore to stay in the slot due to his shiftiness and route running ability. One of the outside positions should be taken up by Braylon Sanders as he had good production last season in limited roles. The other outside position, in my opinion, is up for grabs. Returning players Miles Battle and Demarcus Gregory will be competing with one another through the spring for the position but fall camp will bring in more of the 2019 class recruiting class. Dontario Drummond, Jonathan Mingo, and Jordan Jernigan (Tupelo) will be coming in ready to make waves in the big pond that is the Ole Miss wide receiver corps. But wait, the NWO also has to have a muscle. The muscle I am referencing is the tight end. Dawson Knox, like his faster brethren, is headed to the league so that is another “what are we going to do here” positions. Gabe Angel has left the team pursuing transfer but, look to seniors Jason Pellerin and Octavious Cooley to take up the reigns. Former quarterback Alex Faniel has also moved to the tight end position so there’s three options there. I expect Cooley to be the 1 and Pellerin to be the 2 in the pecking order.

2) Matt Corral taking charge (and who will be second in line)
Rich Rodriguez Oversees The Progression of QB Matt Corral

Last season in mop up duty and in the Egg Bowl we got a glimpse of the talent that Matt Corral possesses. Corral will return in 2019 as a Redshirt Freshman with the keys to the Rebel offense in his hand. It’s literally his job to lose. Corral has a cannon for an arm and the ability to take off down field as a ball carrier. Matt also has a lot of “fire” in his personality, take that as you will, and can be either a great team builder or a headache waiting to happen. As for who will be in waiting in the quarterback position brings in, you guessed it, 2019 signees. Grant Tisdale and Kinkead Dent are already on campus to get a head start to learning the “Rich Rodfense”. Tisdale is a former four star (consensus) quarterback from Allen, TX. During his high school career he compiled 101 touchdowns ( 69 passing and 32 rushing) to only 9 interceptions. Dent is a former Jackson Prep standout and 3 star rated quarterback. Dent is deceptively fast and doesn’t waste motion. I look for Tisdale to get the nod as numero 2 in the quarterback room, I see Dent as a project to redshirt this fall to gain weight on his 6’5” frame and work on his throwing motions. The fall will bring in two sport athlete John Rhys Plumlee who is listed as a quarterback but I feel will make his name best as a safety on the other side of the ball.

1) Offensive Consistency and a Farewell to Red Zone woes
Last season in the red zone the Rebels had a scoring percentage (touchdowns and field goals) of 84.62%. But that’s not too bad right? Well let’s dig a little deeper. The final three games of the season (Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State), the Rebels were at 75%. Compared to a 2017 stat of 97.3%, for those keeping score at home, is a 12.68% decline for an offense that had: a consistent quarterback all season, a better running back, a veteran offensive line and three of the most talented receivers in the SEC under Phil Longo.
But, “Longo Ball” is not a thing anymore in Oxford.
Enter Rich Rodriguez.
“Rich Rod” is a former head coach (West Virginia, Michigan, Arizona) who is credited for being an innovator of the zone read offense. The zone read is very comparable to what Rebel fans have seen over the last several seasons from the aforementioned Longo and previously Dan Werner. However, the “Rich Rodfense” is based on timing. Everybody has a job and a specific time to clock in. The Grove Bowl may not be a “proving ground” per say to see if the offense can put points on the board inside the 20’s but, seeing if the players can gel in new packages will be key. Do the players understand their roles? Can the players execute the plays being called? Have the players bought in to Rich Rod and his system?
The Grove Bowl is scheduled for Saturday April 6th at 3 pm at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Admission is free and will also be televised on the SEC Network.
Check back tomorrow as we will dive into Mississippi State’s 5 Wants under year two of Joe Moorhead.
Ole Miss red zone stats provided by TeamRankings.com