Earlier this week our fellow SB Nation brethren covering all things Ole Miss, Red Cup Rebellion, asked if we'd like to do a Q&A with them. Now since the Jacksonville State debacle, pretty much nobody has watched any of the Ole Miss games. Which is kind of a problem when you'd like to know what the team the Tide is facing on Saturday is likely to do.
So here's what those black bear-loving ingrates had to say (and you can check out our responses to their questions right here):
Roll Bama Roll: How much of the Ole Miss offense is now based on zone read concepts with Jeremiah Masoli?
Red Cup Rebellion: The Ole Miss offensive scheme has evolved from game to game as the coaches have gotten more comfortable with Jeremiah Masoli and vice versa. For our first few games, we were still really feeling things out. We still are, but at least now we have some idea as to what works. The zone-read option is incorporated relatively heavily.
The play we’ve been using a ton lately (and probably won’t use against Alabama just because of that ) is a pistol triple option with a scatback lined up in the slot who goes in motion just before the snap. Masoli reads the strong-side defensive end. If he commits to the option outside, he hands it to Brandon Bolden running up the middle. If the DE commits to Bolden, Masoli takes the ball and runs around the outside with a pitch man.
We haven’t seen much of the wild rebel so-to-speak this year because we have a quarterback who can do several wild rebel-ish things without sacrificing his ability to throw. When we have seen it, it has been Bolden as the namesake of the formation with various players filling in as pitch men. The difference here from last year is that Bolden isn’t an elusive guy. He’s a one-cut runner who finds a seam and runs for it. This doesn’t work well against disciplined defensive ends in the wild rebel.
More than anything, it has been interesting to see our willingness to go five-wide early in games. It allows Masoli to do some interesting things with screens and short passes, but we don’t use it to throw downfield very much. Our downfield throws have come in two or three receiver sets, and we’ve been quite effective there with 6’6" WR Melvin Harris (who has come out of nowhere to appear to be a legit receiver).
Roll Bama Roll: What is expected of the Ole Miss offensive line with the new faces in place?
Red Cup Rebellion: The offensive line graduated three starters last season and took time to find their replacements. During our first three games, it was rough. Then, it appears, we found the right combination. Against Fresno State, we went with a new lineup. True Freshman walk-on Patrick Junen (6'5" 300+) starts at left guard with Jr Logan Clair at the RG spot. The center position was in the hands of AJ Hawkins (who is out with an injury right now). This group, when coupled with tackles Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie (who both got much better as the year went along last year) produced 475 rushing yards against Fresno. Sure, it's a WAC defense. The next week agaisnt Kentucky, the same group managed 211 yards. Kentucky's defense isn't great, but before that change the Rebels were having trouble running up the middle against JACKSONVILLE STATE.
Now, that being said, true freshman Evan Swindall is starting at center this weekend with Hawkins' injury. That means our offensive line looks like this from left to right. JR-FR-FR-JR-SO. Yikes. I think you'll dismantle us.
Roll Bama Roll: Are there any real pass rushing threats after the ACL injury to Kentrell Lockett?
Red Cup Rebellion: There’s no one who’s as big a threat as Lockett was, no. However, DC Tryrone Nix has worked a lot with fan favorite MLB D.T. Shackelford at defensive end. Shackelford is Sr. MLB Jonathan Cornell’s backup and has done well in spot duty (particularly in rushing the passer), so in order to get him on the field more, Nix is teaching him some end techniques. Shackelford is, right now, a poor man’s Eric Norwood (LB/DE hybrid from South Carolina who graduated last year). He has great potential, and we hope that he can grow into greatness in that role.
Really though, the end spots are anyone’s guess right now. 5-star juco transfer Wayne Dorsey was supposed to be a pass-rushing specialist, but if anything he’s better at defending the run than the pass. He just doesn’t have great instincts and isn’t very fast. Our other ends all kind of blend together, but Gerald Rivers has potential for big days and bad days.
Our defensive tackles also can’t really rush the passer all that well. They’re built to fill holes in the 4-3 and allow the linebackers to make plays. Jerrell Powe has actually been coming out of the game on obvious passing downs because he just doesn’t have the requisite speed. At linebacker, Cornell, Allen Walker, and Joel Kight all have good speed. They’re capable pass rushers, but without much help from the outsides, it’s difficult for them to get there.
Roll Bama Roll: What is the latest on the injuries to Johnny Brown and Jeremy McGee?
Red Cup Rebellion: Both players are expected to play. I’m not sure what difference that will make though. Jeremy McGee is an average corner, which is a step up from what we had, but it’s still difficult to see him containing either Julio Jones or Marquis Maze (who I like more than Darius Hanks). It could get rough for the Rebels at corner.
Johnny Brown on the other hand is an enigma. He’s played a lot of football for the Rebels and has shown himself to be quite capable. Despite that, he appeared to be out of position a bit early on in the year before ultimately getting hurt. He’s more able against the run than the pass anyway, but he hasn’t struggled greatly in pass protection in years past. Perhaps it was only an early-game issuea and is behind him for the season. Seriously though, if he doesn’t drop a pick on the one against Jacksonville State, we’re not as big a laughing stock to the world of college football.
Roll Bama Roll: What do you expect out of Nutt this weekend given the extra off week to prepare?
Red Cup Rebellion: The last time Houston Nutt had a week off to prepare Ole Miss to face Alabama, the Tide raced out to a 24-3 lead. I’m not sure this will be much better. Houston does a lot of things we really like. Being prepared when you have extra time to do so is not one of those things. All three seasons at Ole Miss his teams have struggled out of the gate. We obviously hope this season ends the way that the two before it did, with a big end to October and November, but that’s unlikely now. Nutt is good on gameday, and the players love him, but I’m not sure that gameplanning in advance is really his strong suit.