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Alabama Football 2017 Opponent Offensive Preview: Ole Miss

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Fortunately, this year’s version of the Ole Miss offense does not include the helmet pass

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Ole Miss offense runs through and will live and die by it’s quarterback. They pass 62% of the time, with nearly half of the running running plays being scrambles and QB runs. So as QB Shea Patterson goes, so will the Rebel offense.

They run a fairly vanilla spread offense, most often with 3 receivers, a running back, and an H-back lined up behind the offensive line somewhere, and are always going with as much tempo as possible. They run a lot of RPO’s from that set, with Shea Patterson deciding if he wants to hand the ball off or throw a quick slant. These immediate passes act as a defacto running game.

In a more standard passing play, Patterson is given a lot of freedom to freelance and buy time with his feet while the receivers are expected to break off routes to comply with the scramble drill.

As mentioned above, this offense goes as sophomore Shea Patterson does. After showing flashes as a freshman last year, he’s been given the keys to the offense and has been nothing short of stellar so far in 2017. He’s in the top 3 in the SEC in pretty much every passing category despite only playing three games. He’s completing 71% of his passes for 1281 yards on an outstanding 10.5 Y/A. He’s thrown 11 touchdowns too, but the sheer volume of passing has a major drawback: he’s thrown 4 interceptions already in only 3 games.

At running back, senior Jordan Wilkins is back and has the job locked down as the lead back. The 217- pounder doesn’t have great stats so far this year— 28 carries for 103 yards and a touchdown-- but don’t sleep on his ability. He’s got exceptional balance and strength, and has a feel and a knack for slipping forward for more yards than he should be able to.

He’s spelled by 240-pound D’Vaugn Pennamon (remember when he almost committed to Alabama?), who is working towards having a more expanded role this season. Pennamon only has 14 carries so far, but is definitely a physical specimen and is a dangerous receiving threat out of the backfield.

At receiver, sophomore AJ Brown was an absolute monster his first two games, catching 16 balls for 389 yards and 4 touchdowns, but was injured and missed the contest against Cal. It’s still unknown if he’ll be back to the field this weekend. If he is, though, it could be a huge issue for Alabama, as he is a big bodied receiver with a penchant for the big play (24.3 yards per catch).

Third-year sophomore Van Jefferson was one of the teams more consistent receivers in 2016, and is on pace to improve his numbers this year. He has 15 catches for 148 yards so far. Junior DeMarkus Lodge also returns two years of experience, and has 15 catches of his own for 284 yards and 4 touchdowns. Both of these guys are 6’2” and a shade under 200 pounds.

And then there’s redshirt sophomore D.K. Metcalf. At 6’4” 225, the massive receiver is a step behind Brown with 16 catches for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Senior Ty Quick is a 265 pound tight end who is used more as a 6th lineman than a receiver.

The Ole Miss offensive line returns a lot of experience and talent, if not consistency. Left guard Javon Patterson was the only lineman start every game for the Rebels last year, with 9 at guard at 3 at center. Left tackle Greg Little was an All-Everything recruit a year and a half ago, and lived up to that, earning Freshman All-American honors after winning the starting job at LT part of the way through last year.

Center Sean Rawlings is in his third year as a starter, but has missed quite a few due to injury and has spent most of his career at right tackle . Right guard and senior Daronte Bouldin has been a key flex backup for most of his career, earning 4 starts at left and right guard last year due to injuries, and has finally locked down a true starting position of his own. Right tackle Rod Taylor was a backup guard his first two years, but was the starting left tackle in 2016 for much of the year before getting injured and being replaced by Little. He’s now locked down the right tackle spot.

This is a dangerous offense for sure. The sheer volume of passing can be tough on any defense, and having 4 big-bodied receivers who can make plays down the field does not bode well for the Tide DB’s and their well-publicized struggles with 50-50 balls. On the other hand, the Rebels are very one-dimensional and Shea Patterson can be turnover prone when rattled. If the Tide defense can pin it’s ears back and get to Patterson, it could make for a very long game for the Rebels.