As the sun beats down on the Ole Miss practice field and the thermometer inches toward 100 degrees, Rich Rodriguez is tailoring his offensive scheme at Ole Miss with an emphasis on speed.
The Rebels’ new offensive coordinator has been handed the keys to an interesting, but unproven group and with it comes the task of installing a new offense with new terminology to young playmakers.
Rodriguez has a potential All-SEC senior running back, a five-star true freshman talent, two senior tight ends and a stable of budding receivers coming out of the shadows. All these weapons are coming together under the leadership of a redshirt freshman quarterback that can match, if not exceed Rodriguez’s patented intensity on the field.
The portion of practice open to the media, which spans 8 different periods, feels like one, long high-speed rush. Time between reps is minimal and any hesitation is immediately lambasted.
“Four or five days in, we have probably about 70% of what our offense will be,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not game-specific to Memphis yet, but I was a little bit nervous about that with so many freshman in the two-deep. We’re trying to force feed it and they’re handling it pretty well.”
Rodriguez spends most of his time behind the quarterbacks, scanning and coaching each arm throughout each rep looking for one freshman backup to separate himself from the others.
“We have three of them that are really battling for the second spot. I’m not even close to determining who that’s going to be. It might be a couple weeks into the season,” he said.
Matt Corral, Kinkead Dent, Grant Tisdale and John Rhys Plumlee work through the route tree with rapid pace as the receivers perfect their footwork. Wideout Demarcus Gregory says the group has already built chemistry with each quarterback.
“During the summer, we threw every single day literally so it feels the same,” he said.
Gregory, who tore his meniscus in fall camp a year, ago said the surplus of quality receivers on the depth chart is motivation for the upcoming season.
“Dannis (Jackson) and (Jonathan) Mingo, they’re going to be really special,” he said. “It’s a competition out there everyday. You’ve got to bring it. You know (Coach Jacob) Peeler’s going to bring the best players in so you know you’ve got to compete.”
The same goes for the crowded group of running backs with Scottie Phillips, Isaiah Woullard, D’vaughn Pennamon, Snoop Conner and Jerrion Ealy all showing gusto.
“We’ve got pretty good competition,” Rodriguez said. “We need to really have three or four ready to go and I’m pretty confident that we’ll have three or four that coach (Derrick) Nix feels he can rotate in and out with. We’re running a lot of two back sets just to get them reps.”
The offensive coaches cycle through every single option in every drill in order to have versatility the different packages and personnel groups the Rebels might deploy.
“Make sure Memphis is watching this,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve got every personnel group there’s ever been and we’re repping them all equally.”