OXFORD

Ole Miss coach Matt Luke mentioned this week that often teams see their greatest improvement from Week 1 to Week 2.

It’s possible, I suppose, that you might have run into offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez at Home Depot this week, because there’s a lot of home improvement needed on his side of the ball.

There was a split decision among the Rebels’ two new coordinators in a 15-10 loss at Memphis to open the season. The Ole Miss defense took a giant step forward, while the offense stepped backward.

Offensively, Ole Miss gained just 173 total yards and scored 10 points.

Rodriguez has been around the block, and his body of work suggests he’ll be able to make the necessary adjustments to help the Rebels become more productive.

Ground Zero for improvement is the offensive line.

The key components in replacing three starters from 2018 are three redshirt juniors and a fifth-year senior, none of whom had a start among them.

There had been game appearances, yes, but there was some question as to how well that situational action would prepare these guys. There’s something different about going out for the first series and playing snap after snap.

Offensive line coach Jack Bicknell said Tuesday it took his guys some time to adapt to the speed of the game. Well, the Ole Miss starters included seniors Alex Givens and Michael Howard, juniors Royce Newman and Eli Johnson and sophomore Ben Brown.

Givens and Brown were starters last year. The primary experience for the rest has been in practice.

True freshman Nick Broeker will play this week. Exactly what his role will be is unclear, though Bicknell says he will play in the first half.

Broeker got in the Memphis game on special teams only.

He was the second-highest rated of the Rebels’ seven offensive line signees, a guy Ohio State showed some interest in later in the recruiting process.

It’s unfair, however, to expect Broeker to come in and make a huge impact.

Home improvement for the offensive line is not going to come from personnel. There’s not a “next big thing” waiting in the wings to come in and make everything right.

It’s possible you see starters shuffle to other positions, but the fix is more likely to happen with different play-calling, varied sets and pre-snap motion.

Rodriguez has to help a limited offensive line help him.

Give Rodriguez credit for making halftime adjustments that helped the Rebels move better in the last two quarters. That was a start.

This has been a big week for the new coordinator with a huge game ahead. Arkansas is a vulnerable opponent, and Ole Miss, still rebuilding after NCAA sanctions, needs a win to stay on the path for a possible six wins and a bowl game.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. Find more in the Facebook group “Ole Miss Discussion With Parrish Alford.”

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