The Ole Miss football team’s preseason camp has hit the midway point and the schemes and structures set in place by the new coordinators are starting to come to fruition.
The Rebels held their second intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday and head coach Matt Luke was pleased with the intensity on both sides of the ball.
“I thought the energy was better. The body language was really good. There was a competitive spirit out there that went back and forth,” Luke said on Monday. “I thought it was good competition and it was a big improvement from the first scrimmage in my eyes.”
Both players and coordinators said they weren’t exactly where they needed to be after that scrimmage a week ago. Matt Luke is more confident in all facets after the weekend as the team continues to adjust to the new tempo.
“With a young team, I think it’s important to get the speed of the game,” Luke said. “We did half and half today, introducing Memphis but still getting the speed of the game just to try to get ahead since we do have a little bit of extra time.”
That difference in speed is most evident on the offensive side of the ball. The returning players on the offense aren’t strangers to an up-tempo offense, but they’re being asked to run a more complex system with even less time between snaps.
Matt Corral mentioned last week that after the whistle is blown on a play, offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez wants to have the next play called within six seconds.
That tempo is also helping the defense in fall camp. Playing against an offense always looking to go faster acts as conditioning for the defensive players. Being forced to play quicker now will make it less grueling on the surface of the sun in Memphis on August 31.
Being game ready is also dependent on depth and the Rebels are relatively healthy. Alex Givens is back with the team after nursing a back injury, but he’s not anywhere near full speed. Qaadir Sheppard is back at practice with a cast on his injured hand and Montrell Custis is still running with a knee brace. Other than those core injuries, it’s mostly minor bumps and bruises.
Other notes from fall camp:
- Grant Tisdale seems to have separated himself as the No. 2 quarterback on the roster. The freshman has been taking most of the snaps with the second team.
- The running backs have proven to be the deepest position on the team. Scottie Phillips is the feature back. Snoop Conner and Isaiah Woullard have impressed and Jerrion Ealy is an automatic playmaker, so Rich Rodriguez plans to use all of them. That position is so stacked, D’Vaughn Pennamon was moved to tight end.
- Jonathan Mingo is not playing like a freshman. The receivers hope to surprise some people and the big young pass catcher has his teammates and coaches raving. Myles Hartsfield even went as far as comparing him to A.J. Brown.
- The defense has a plan focused on stopping the run after an embarrassing 2018 season. The 3-4 allows for bigger bodies around the line of scrimmage and puts less work on the inside linebackers. The interiors of the offense and defense work together everyday to get each other different looks.