Four Downs

Posted on Jun 20 2013 - 8:01am by David Collier and Tyler Bischoff

1. Will the offense be at the pace Hugh Freeze wants them to be by the time the season starts?

David Collier (@DavidLCollier): Being the first game, it will likely not be as fast as we will see it later in the season, but it should be improved from last year. I still, however, don’t expect the tempo to be at the pace Freeze wants it until another year or two down the road.

Tyler Bischoff (@Tyler_RSR): It will be much closer to the pace Freeze wants to run, but they still won’t be all the way there. Freeze needs depth for his offense to go fast and it’ll take more than one recruiting class to bulid up that depth. Another setback for the pace was Bo Wallace missing all of spring practice. Spring was a perfect chance for the offense to work on the pace, but the pace setter wasn’t there.

2. Will Marshall Henderson be able to put up similar numbers next season now that teams have seen him?

Collier: Yes. By midway through the year, teams were doing whatever they could to slow Henderson down, but he still found a way to score. That won’t change. In fact, he could get better looks if the two freshmen post players can be the presence in the paint many are hoping for. With a good inside game from those two to go along with experienced guards surrounding him, Henderson could find more open looks next year.

Bischoff: After falling to Mississippi State this past season, Henderson averaged 22.4 points over his last seven games. He dropped 27 on Missouri in the SEC Tournament, which was the third meeting between those teams. Henderson got to the line over six times per game in the final seven games. Ole Miss was 14-2 when Henderson attempted at least six free throws. Henderson was the focus of the opponent nearly all of last season, so next year shouldn’t change.

3. When looking at the baseball rotation for next season, who appears to be front runners for the weekend spots?

Collier: At this point, this is a complete guess, and it will be a major storyline to watch as we approach next spring. Obviously, if Bobby Wahl decides to return for his senior year, he will have his Friday night spot. Beyond that, right-hander Sam Smith will have to continue his development in his junior year. He was good in 2013, but he will have to find a way to get through the lineup a third time. Other candidates include right-handers Chris Ellis and Jacob Waguespack, who both were hindered by injuries to start this past season, as well as left-hander Christian Trent, a junior college transfer. Trent had a lot success in his one year in the junior college system, totaling four complete games in 10 starts.

Bischoff: It is a hold out for Bobby Wahl. If Wahl comes back that is a season changer for next year giving Ole Miss a dominant ace. Sam Smith started 15 games and posted a 3.41 ERA, so expect him to be back in the rotation. Josh Laxer had eight starts with a 3.21 ERA and will have a shot at the weekend rotation. Jacob Waguespack pitched only 13 innings last year, but he has a fantastic last name, so here’s to hoping he gets a lot of time on the mound next year.

4. What major concern do you have on the defensive side of the ball in football next season?

Collier: Depth is still an issue at most spots, but the biggest concern has to be in the secondary. That concern is not nearly as big if Ole Miss gets news of freshman safety Tony Conner enrolling in summer school in July and defensive back Nick Brassell getting academically eligible. The Rebels have a lot of young players that could be fine, but there’s a lot of unknown on that depth chart, which makes it scary heading into the front half of Ole Miss’ brutal schedule.

Bischoff: The pass defense has to improve. Ole Miss was one of four SEC teams to allow over 3000 passing yards. Texas put up 326 yards, four touchdowns and a 79.2 completion percentage in their meeting last year. Most people think the pass defense improved throughout the season but consider that in the last five games of the regular season Ole Miss allowed 309 passing yards per game. For Ole Miss to take the next step the pass defense has to be in the top half of the conference.