Spring football is underway in Oxford, and with all the talk of NCAA allegations and sanctions surrounding the Ole Miss program, offensive coordinator Phil Longo has reason to be optimistic.
“Players we were going to depend on, we’re able to depend on,” Longo said. “They were excited to come into spring ball.”
Longo, entering his first year at Ole Miss after earning his stripes at Sam Houston State, feels the “install” of his offensive plays and terminology is going well. A veteran of spring football, Longo has wasted no time getting his new players up to speed.
“We’re going to install the whole thing in four days,” Longo said. “Right now, for having a brand new staff and a brand new offense with guys that did something different terminology-wise last year, I kind of like where we’re at on day two”
According to practice reports, a number of scuffles broke out during the afternoon scrimmages. Longo and the rest of the coaches didn’t appear too concerned with the altercation; as members of a veteran staff, they’re confident such problems have a way of working themselves out.
“Some guys like the aggressive; they like the sense of urgency,” Longo said. “As we get through spring ball, I’d like to see us handle it with a little more poise on offense.”
Over the past few seasons, the Rebels have been pass-heavy, relying on the (at times) inventive Chad Kelly to bail them out whenever trouble arose. This year, the offensive staff, especially Longo, seems far more confident in its running backs than it has in previous seasons.
“I’m happy with our (running backs),” Longo said. “They’ll be aggressive, and that’s what we want.”
On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff appeared happy with the maturity and composure of his players, especially so early in the spring.
“Well, I’ll tell you – the biggest surprise has been the football IQ of the young men,” Longo said.“They’re doing a tremendous job of grasping the information in the morning and retaining it. It’s translating over to the field, so that’s good to see.”
After constant struggling with injuries and an over-reliance on defense, the Rebels are hoping the “Landshark” moniker returns this year. Leading that charge will be a solid core of veterans mixed with a healthy dose of newcomers.
“Marquis Haynes is doing a tremendous job of finding leadership,” McGriff said. “Breeland Speaks, I mean he’s doing some good things. On the back end, you’ve got (Zedrick) Woods, No. 36, and he’s doing good things.”
Also in the news, Ole Miss defensive tackle signee Tae-Kion Reed was arrested Tuesday for on charges of burglary in Lowndes County. The three-star recruit briefly went viral on signing day after grabbing a Mississippi State hat and throwing it across the room before putting on a Rebels cap. The university has released Reed from his national letter of intent.