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Previewing Alabama vs. Ole Miss: The Rebels Offense

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After losing to the Rebels the last two years in a row, Alabama has to be ready to right the ship.

Florida State v Mississippi Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Ole Miss offense includes one of the most dangerous passing attacks in all of college football. Hugh Freeze likes to spread the ball around and create match-up problems for opposing defenses, but the RPOs (run-pass options) that gave Alabama such a fit last year might not be as successful this time around. Let’s take a look what we should see from the Rebels on Saturday:

Quarterback

Florida State v Mississippi Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Starters:

10 Chad Kelly (Sr.) - Kelly has ended up being an excellent addition for Hugh Freeze’s offense. His ability to make plays with his arm as well as his legs have added a much needed element to an Ole Miss team that is going to need to lean heavily on the offense after losing several playmakers from last year’s defense. At 6’2 224, Kelly has one of the strongest arms in college football, but his play has been inconsistent and it has hindered the offense from reaching its full potential at times. Despite his inconsistency, the former Clemson quarterback is one of the top eligible quarterback prospects this year. He was a Preseason All-American second team selection by Phil Steele, and the Preseason SEC Offensive Player of the Year according to ESPN.

2016 Season Stats: 41/66 (62.5%), 532 pass yards, seven touchdowns, three interceptions

Running Back

Wofford v Mississippi Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Starters:

21 Akeem Judd (RS Sr.) - For the first time in awhile, Ole Miss has a running back with SEC size. At 5’11 228 pounds, Judd is gifted with a different skill set than they have been accustomed to, but thus far, that hasn’t translated into an improved running game. The offense has abandoned the run at several points this season, and that could cause some concern against Alabama’s formidable defense. If anyone on this Ole Miss offense can take over as a workhorse and create balance, it’s the former four-star JUCO running back from Georgia Military College.

2016 Season Stats: 19 carries, 108 yards rushing, one touchdown

Another Name to Know:

23 Eugene Brazley (Jr.) - Brazley is a true change-of-pace running back who hasn’t been used enough due to limited opportunities for the running backs in Ole Miss’s offense. He probably boast the most speed of any running back on the roster, but he is only listed at 5’9 192. Alabama’s defense has added a ton of speed over the last couple of years, so Brazley’s effectiveness could be nullified.

2016 Season Stats: Six carries, 42 yards rushing

Wide Receiver

Florida State v Mississippi Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Starters:

03 Damore’ea Stringfellow (RS Jr.) - Stringfellow has been tasked with replacing the production that Laquon Treadwell left behind. At 6’2 211, Stringfellow has been blessed with similar size and that gives him a physicality needed to succeed on the short to intermediate routes that made Treadwell so effective in Hugh Freeze’s offense. Of all of the receivers, Stringfellow has become the “go-to” guy for Chad Kelly this season, and he will be needed against a physical Alabama secondary on Saturday. He was listed on Athlon’s Preseason All-SEC second team, and he is an underrated NFL prospect who should be playing on Sunday’s someday.

2016 Season Stats: Eight receptions, 81 receiving yards, one touchdown

08 Quincy Adeboyejo (Sr.) - Alabama fans are probably quite familiar with Adeboyejo after his miraculous catch against the Tide last year that ended up being the final dagger to any chance at Alabama’s perfect season. There is no doubt that it was a fortunate play for Kelly and the Ole Miss offense, but kudos to Adeboyejo for the heads-up play in a crucial moment. At 6’3 195, Adeboyejo is the main deep threat for the Rebels, and he has shown a knack for making plays downfield and stretching defenses vertically. He was the returning leader in receiving yards and receptions for Ole Miss heading into this season.

2016 Season Stats: Three receptions, 46 receiving yards, one touchdown

12 Van Jefferson (RS Fr.) - Jefferson is the Ole Miss slot man who compliments the other receivers perfectly. At 6’2 187, the redshirt freshman from Brentwood, Tennessee provides Ole Miss with a bigger option in the slot, and the former four-star has turned that into a nice start to the season. He has almost become the “forgotten man” in the receiving corps, but Jefferson is a solid #3 option. However, it remains to be seen how he holds up physically against a much more physically impressive Minkah Fitzpatrick.

2016 Season Stats: Six receptions, 54 receiving yards, one touchdown

Another Name to Know:

01 A.J. Brown (Fr.) - One of the star recruits of the 2016 recruiting class, Brown is a physically impressive receiver who might have a higher ceiling than former star receiver Laquon Treadwell. He is listed at 6’1 225 pounds which gives him more of a running back type of build. Through two games, Brown has made the most of his opportunities despite receiving a limited role thus far. As the season progresses, don’t be surprised to see Brown become a much bigger part of the offense.

2016 Season Stats: Four receptions, 63 receiving yards, one touchdown

Tight End

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Mississippi v Oklahoma State Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Starters:

17 Evan Engram (Sr.) - Engram is probably the best player on the Rebels’ offense. At only 6’3 235, Engram is undersized for a tight end, but Ole Miss is constantly moving him around in the offense to turn that size into an advantage. You are rarely going to see him lined up as an in-line tight end on Saturday, so expect to see him being used as an oversized wide receiver. He can win in a lot of different ways, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Alabama pull a Bill Belichick and completed eliminate him from making any sort of impact.

2016 Season Stats: 11 receptions, 164 receiving yards, one touchdown

Another Name to Know:

89 Taz Zettergren (Sr.) - Zettergren is a former walk-on who has made the most of his opportunities since joining the Ole Miss football program back in 2012. After not playing much his first three years on campus, he played in 11 games in 2015 and could’ve been utilized more had it not been for nagging injuries. After his performance in the Florida State game two weeks ago, Zettergren finished with the second best grade on offense according to Pro Football Focus. Like Engram, Zettergren is undersized at only 6’3 218 pounds, and he should not be considered an in-line blocker.

2016 Season Stats: One receptions, 37 receiving yards

Offensive Line

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Florida State Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Starters:

73 Rod Taylor (Jr.) - Taylor is a former four-star offensive guard coming out of high school who was rated the second best guard in the nation according to 247Sports. After starting two games at guard in 2015, the 6’3 329 pound lineman from Jackson, Mississippi won the starting left tackle position that was vacated by the Miami Dolphin’s first-round pick Laremy Tunsil. Taylor has played admirably this year for Ole Miss, but it’s only a matter of time before Little takes over the left tackle role full-time.

2016 Season Stats: 2 games started

79 Javon Patterson (So.) - As a true freshman in 2015, Patterson started six games -- four at left guard and two at right guard -- and helped pave the way for a highly successful Ole Miss offense. The 6’3 307 pound guard from Petal, Mississippi is considered one of the brightest young players on the Ole Miss offense, and he continues to improve from week to week. Patterson was a Preseason All-SEC third team member along the offensive line according to Athlon’s.

2016 Season Stats: 2 games started

75 Robert Conyers (Sr.) - Conyers is one of the Rebels most experienced offensive lineman. To this point, he has ten career starts -- eight at center and two at right tackle. After starting six games as a junior in 2015, Conyers torn his ACL versus Memphis and missed the remainder of the season. He entered the season as a Preseason All-SEC third team member according to Lindy’s magazine. At 6’5 298, Conyers is well-built for the Rebels’ up-tempo offense.

2016 Season Stats: 2 games started

70 Jordan Sims (RS So.) - Sims played in every game last year as a redshirt freshman, but he also earned four starts at right guard during that same period. At 6’4 334, Sims dropped some weight in the offseason to add some finesse to his already powerful playing style. So far in his career, Sims has struggled as a pass protector and should be the weak link for Alabama to target during Saturday’s match-up.

2016 Season Stats: 2 games started

50 Sean Rawlings (RS So.) - According to Pro Football Focus, Rawlings graded out as one of the best players on offense for the Rebels against Florida State in Week 1 (70.7 overall grade). He started seven games at right tackle in 2015, and he ended up on the SEC-All Freshman team as a result. The former three-star prospect from Madison, Mississippi is a little light for an SEC offensive tackle (6’5 282), but he makes up for with grit and hard work. Even though he is considered light, Rawlings has great movement skills for an offensive lineman what meshes well with the Rebels’ RPO-based offense.

2016 Season Stats: 2 games started

Another Name to Know:

74 Greg Little (Fr.) - When Laremy Tunsil departed for the NFL, it was everyone’s foregone conclusion that Little would be the incumbent starter at left tackle out of the gate. The former five-star, top-five prospect was considered a blue-chip player with the ability to start immediately at either tackle spot. While Little’s development has gone a lot slower than most had anticipated, he is starting to show flashes of what made earned him a Preseason All-SEC fourth team player according to Phil Steele. The 6’6 332 pound freshman phenom isn’t a starter at the moment, but it’s just a matter of time. He will see the field a lot against Alabama on Saturday.

2016 Season Stats: 2 games played

How Will Ole Miss Attack Alabama?

The Ole Miss offense is going to live and die by Chad Kelly -- just like they always have. Hugh Freeze and company have done a really good job getting the ball into the hands of several different players on offense, but they face a dangerous task going against Alabama’s emerging secondary.

If the Rebels want to improve their chances of winning this football game, they are going to need to create a balance on offense with some sort of run game. It won’t be easy, but Alabama’s pass rush is too much to handle if they can simply pin their ears back and get after the quarterback on every single play. Don’t get me wrong, the team is going try to throw the ball around, but I just don’t think they can abandon the run game like they have the last two weeks.

Another potential problem for the Rebels could be their offensive line. The unit struggled to provide adequate pass protection versus Florida State, giving up 4.5 sacks to Florida State’s DeMarcus Walker. Don’t be surprised to see Jonathan Allen and company rack up quite a few themselves.

As mentioned before, one of the keys to stopping the Ole Miss offense will be stopping Evan Engram. More than likely, we are going to see a lot of Ronnie Harrison matched up against him, but Ole Miss is going to try to move Engram around to create opportunities for him to succeed. Look for that match-up to be one of the deciding factors in how much success the Rebels’ offense has versus Alabama.

Revenge factor aside, I still believe Alabama is going to roll Ole Miss on Saturday. Alabama’s pass rush/secondary combination will be too much for an Ole Miss offense that can’t get anything going on the ground. Alabama can match them speed-for-speed nowadays, so I don’t see the Ole Miss offense having much success this week in Oxford.

**EDIT: DK Metcalf will not play versus the Tide after suffering a broken foot. He is now out for the season which is a huge blow to the Rebels’ offense. Metcalf was a redzone problem for opposing defenses, having already caught two touchdowns in the first two games.**