Thanks to One Man To Beat from Red Cup Rebellion for taking the time to do this Q&A with us. Check out the other half on their site here.
1) How are you guys feeling about Matt Luke right now? Is there any optimism, or is your fanbase just ready to move on?
I think it really depends on how much you love Ole Miss and if you live in Oxford. There’s a portion of the fan base who will argue this is REALLY Luke’s first year because of an interim year then probation year. “Give him a chance to coach the guys up and get new coordinators in,” they’ll say. They play golf with him, go to church with his family, and they are well meaning, nice people. But for the fans, there’s a reason attendance is down - it’s because anyone who follows the team closely knows long term Luke is not the guy.
2) What can you tell us about freshman QB Matt Corral? Does he have a bright future, or just a stopgap?
I think John Rhys Plumlee can eventually overtake Corral as the starter, and I’ve heard JRP is RichRod’s guy for whatever that is worth. Corral wasn’t brought in to run this style of offense, so I think he’s making the best of it and could ultimately transfer out. He’s got a solid arm, but he hasn’t been right so far this season. Now he’s sharing snaps with a freshman from Mississippi who provided a spark late vs. Cal. If he can’t get healthy and restore faith, I don’t see him sticking around.
3) What can you tell us about the new Rich Rodriguez offensive system, and how is it different from last year?
Last year’s offense could be installed during a lunch at a Mexican restaurant by the time you’re on your third margarita. Run toward space, let AJ Brown and DK Metcalf be the high end WR they are, and run to keep people honest. There was reportedly less than 30 plays in the Phil Longo offense. Yikes. I think you’ll see more RPO and wrinkles in the run game that weren’t there last year and far less passing attempts. It’s really more of a spread run offense built to open up the pass for close to intermediate routes.
4) What is the strongest position group on your defense?
I honestly can say the defensive line. Benito Jones clogs the middle in a 3-4 set, and we’ve got experienced ends who have really helped to create space for our OLB’s to shine more than in any of the last few years.
5) Are there any freshmen players poised to break out that we should watch out for? (Aside from Corral)
Jerrion Ealy set our freshman single game record for all purpose yards with 273 against SELA including a 94 yard kickoff return for touchdown. He has above average hands in receiving, and he’ll get touches out of the backfield behind senior RB Scottie Phillips. Ealy is the real deal, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see coaches try to get him the ball in space.
6) What are your season predictions for Ole Miss?
Before the season began, I was sitting at 6-6 and had put significant faith in our new coordinators. Now I’m looking at the remaining schedule and thinking 4-8 is more likely. I think we really needed the Cal game to be a win to hold out bowl hopes for this team, and now I think it’ll be on the coaches to try and keep guys motivated going into conference play.
7) What’s your score prediction?
I think the line is a little fat at -37.5, but I sure wouldn’t put my money on it. I’m officially guessing 45-14, but if it ends up worse, I wouldn’t be the least bit shocked.
8) Finally, what’s the generally preferred nickname for Ole Miss? Rebels? Land Sharks??
If you get AARP magazine, definitely Rebels over Landsharks, but even if you’re younger, there’s still a decent percentage who prefer Rebels over Landsharks. Change generally happens slowly, so kids under 12 going to games now are all about the “fins up” stuff. Maybe we’re a generation or two away from Rebels being extinct, but I wouldn’t count on it just yet.