Our friends The Ghost of Jay Cutler and Juco All-American from Red Cup Rebellion joined us for an informative Q&A. The sensibilities of Ole Miss fans in general are entertaining and they're masters of black humor punctuated by occasional spurts of giddy optimism. Right now they're not quite sure what to do with themselves. They've believed and been hurt before. If you're ready for the comprehensive lowdown on what to expect from Ole Miss as well as a taste of the current pre-game madness that's happening in Oxford this week, make the jump.
You'll be glad you did. RCR is nails.Can you describe the current atmosphere in Oxford? Where does this rate in terms of Ole Miss excitement level?
Well, I'm not actually IN Oxford yet, so I can't speak from personally witnessing it. From what people are saying, it's incredible. You'd think we won more than two games last season.
The square is likely going to be packed and boisterous Friday night with so many alums from all over the country picking this as the game for their return. If you're not familiar with the Oxford square, it's Oxford's "downtown," which consists of a few blocks of buildings arranged in a square centered around the Lafayette County Courthouse. It is known for its boutique shops, galleries, bars, and restaurants. Thursday through Saturday night, it is borderline unbearably packed with eaters and drinkers, particularly on football game weekends.
The Grove on Saturday should be as good as it has ever been. I'm personally joining a tailgate tent that has set a Tex-Mex theme for this game. It's not in a mocking way, I don't think. If so, oh well. Deal with it. And while the food we're serving might be more Texan, the booze will be almost exclusively from Kentucky. We drink Bourbon and lots of it in the Grove.
The weather is likely to be gorgeous, and the women will likely be out in full force in their pearls, sundresses, and high heels. After all, sorority rush is next week, so this is one last chance to impress whatever houses these girls want to get into.
As always happens with overall excitement, the excitement of preparation has spilled over to prediction homerism. Many fans are predicting three point wins, etc. You'll see later how I feel about that. Suffice it to say though that Ole Miss fans are finally hopeful again after two dismal years when Houston Nutt had seemingly given up, which in itself should make this weekend pretty damned exciting.
The Rebels are 2-0, averaging 550 yards per game on offense, creating plays on defense, and seem to be completely revitalized. Yet, many Rebel fans seem cautious, borderline pessimistic. Are these echoes of historical disappointment or do you know something about your team we don't? Y'all know this isn't 2005 Texas, correct?
I think that it's a mixture of our famous Ole Miss pessimism, being traditionally an SEC for much of the past 30 years, and not really knowing what to expect out of a team that has already matched last year's win total. Sure, Bo Wallace and the offense looked great against Central Arkansas and UTEP. Unfortunately, we aren't sure we'll be prepared for Texas' defense, and our own defense is incredibly susceptible to overpursuit and misdirection.
It's not that we don't want to believe.
It's just that we have been bitten so many times in the past. I think most Ole Miss fans are ready to say that Freeze's offense can move the football with the right talent. I'm just not sure we have the right talent yet. We're also just so new to this whole "fast paced spread offense" thing. We don't know what to do. Our method in the past has been to be traditional and lose to more talented teams... an interesting strategy in the SEC.
Safety Trae Elston's suspension by Mike Slive for "a flagrant and dangerous act" - bullshit or COMPLETE AND TOTAL BULLSHIT? What does his suspension mean to your defense?
Yeah. I almost don't want to talk about what a horrendous decision Slive made on that one. I spoke with him at length once, and he seemed like a very reasonable man. Then this.
It's clear the SEC is trying to send a "we care about player safety" message, so by doing that they suspend a freshman free safety on one of the league's worst teams for a hit he made in a game that most college football fans didn't watch a single second of. Way to get the message across, y'all.
Elton isn't necessarily a VITAL part of our defense, but he provides significant depth. The best player in our secondary is safety Charles Sawyer. Sawyer's backup is Elston. Elston was asked to contribute on this defense early because of a quadricep Sawyer injured in practice. Over the past couple of weeks, he wasn't playing at 100% which forced Elston into some gametime. Hopefully this means Sawyer sees more time rather than third string Frank Crawford seeing more. The difference in their speeds is alarming.
The thing that Elston has provided more than anything is a true freshman for fans to get excited about on defense. We have others, but Elston was playing a ton and is a great tackler. He will be missed.
Speaking of the Rebel D, the depth chart suggests the Rebs may lack some size on the DL and at LB. Is that a concern or does it merely highlight ESS E SEE speed?
No, it's not a testament to our speed. We do have some speed on defense, but not enough to justify how small we are. It's really a testament to Houston Nutt's poor retention rates and poor overall evaluation. There are a lot of places where we've had to put guys who who are undersized for their position due to a lack of depth and talent and those positions.
A true freshman defensive tackle, Isaac Gross, stepped in and was almost immediately promoted to be a starter. His first step is insane and he plays with tremendous effort. That's great. He weighs just TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY POUNDS. Thats not great. I can't believe he's starting at defensive tackle when he's 40 pounds under an ideal weight for the position. As I mentioned, I love his ability to disrupt plays based on his jump off the ball, but I don't anticipate that working nearly as effectively against Texas. If it does, Gross will be in for an All-Freshman SEC team type of season.
We are also undersized at end, where our best defensive lineman, true sophomore CJ Johnson, made a transition from linebacker. He weighs 230 right now and hasn't struggled against the run yet, but that's likely coming against bigger and better lines.
Redshirt freshman Denzel Nkemdiche is starting at one of our linebacker spots (if we run a 4-2-5, which I'm not sure to expect). He is small but hits hard. We will see if he can hold up for the entire season throwing his body at halfbacks the way he does. In general, if I were playing against Ole Miss, I would run it right at them on most downs. I'm not sure we have an answer to that due to the size issue.
Can you give us a quick understanding of what to expect from Hugh Freeze's wide open option spread trick play kitchen sink offense? Vulnerabilities?
Expect everything and nothing.
We almost never go under center. Even when we have the ball on our own one. If we are under center, we WILL be running a qb sneak to pick up one yard. Expect a lot of sweeps and misdirections on runs. We pull with guards a lot and rely on mismatches to generate big plays. If you are able to get us to the point where we have to dink and dunk to win, I'm not certain we can do it.
When we do dink and dunk, it's high percentage short passes. We throw a lot of screens and passes to backs in the flats.
When we feel comfortable throwing moderate to deep passes, watch out. Wallace has shown ridiculous accuracy on deep passes even under pressure. I'm not sure they will work against Texas, but I sure hope they do.
Overall, I'd say the vulnerability is offensive line play. It has been shaky at best, though they really came through strong against UTEP and visibly pushed back a defensive line that had given Oklahoma fits. Our second vulnerability is that I'm still not sure whether our receivers can separate from good corners.
What should we expect from the Rebel D? Vulnerabilities?
I addressed this a little earlier. Specifically, this team hasn't been coached on fundamentals in forever. The coaches are doing a good job of teaching them where to look, where to step, assignments, etc. but it's a learning process, and most of them are very young. We fall for misdirections, lose contain, and just generally make mental errors.
I'd be remiss not to point out how much better the defense was from game one to game two. They really appear to be getting good coaching and understanding what they hear and see. We didn't see as many people out of position last week, and hopefully that number will drop even more this week. The team was also more effective at rushing the pass against UTEP than they were against UCA. They're starting to get things figured out it seems.
Also, we don't commit penalties like we used to. We just don't. It's an odd thing to see, and it's a welcome change from years past.
Prediction for Saturday evening?
I'd guess that you'll have success passing the ball. Everyone has so far against us. I think you'll run well too.
I think the game will come down to a couple of turnovers and a stalled drive or two. The team that makes the fewest mistakes wins.
I think your team is a huge test for us. I think we will realize in the first quarter whether our team is able to hang with a team so talented.
Texas 35 - Ole Miss 20
Thanks. Hoddy Toddy and good luck on Saturday!