OXFORD • The first major scrimmage of August camp for Ole Miss – and its new schemes on both sides of the ball – was less about black and white and more about shades of gray.
There were good things on both offense and defense during the Saturday session, Rebels coach Matt Luke said, and many areas in which he wants to see improvement.
The Rebels ran about 100 plays in game-like conditions with players put under different levels of stress.
Ole Miss opens at Memphis on Aug. 31.
Luke said the new run-based spread option offense of Rich Rodriguez was productive, but so was the 3-4 defense of Mike MacIntyre.
“When you watch the tape there’s good and bad. Sometimes the offense will break a run, but they’ll have a bust over here. The tape is never as good as it seems and never as bad as it seems,” Luke said. “There were flashes of really good stuff. It’s just being consistent.”
Without statistics, Luke singled out freshman running backs Jarod “Snoop” Conner and Jerrion Ealy and said returning starter Scottie Phillips broke a long run.
Defensively Luke praised junior college transfer Lakia Henry, rated the nation’s No. 1 juco inside linebacker last year.
He estimated that Henry finished with six tackles. As a result Henry was promoted to first team for Monday’s practice.
Quite a few players, mostly defense, were in green “no-contact jerseys” on Monday. Among them was junior college transfer Sam Williams (NEMCC), who Luke said tweaked a knee.
Williams, starting at one outside linebacker, was held out of most of the workout. The absence of senior Qaadir Sheppard, already out with a hand injury, means the Rebels at present are without both starters at one of the 3-4’s most important positions.
Quarterback Matt Corral said the scrimmage showed that he and his teammates on offense need to fine tune the “little things” to reach the consistency Luke is looking for.
“It’s getting the call as soon as we have a break-away play and getting back on the ball knowing what we’re supposed to do. It’s the little things … getting set up when we break the huddle, knowing our alignment. We’re trying to do it to Rich Rod’s liking, and if it’s not perfect, he’s going to make sure it is,” Corral said.
The timing is important because Rodriguez wants the offense to play not only at a fast tempo but at several different tempos.
“Being able to mix tempo is a weapon for an offense. You don’t always have to play fast, but when you decide to go fast any time there’s a change in pace that’s a challenge for the defense,” Luke said. “That’s in our tool belt. We can pull it out when we need it.”