Ole Miss Rebels
Head coach: Hugh Freeze (first season)
2011 record: 2-10 (0-8 in conference)
Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense, punter, kicker
Two notable additions here -- Freeze, the head coach, after executing a quick turnaround at Arkansas State, and quarterback Bo Wallace, the JUCO transfer who was planning on visiting Texas before the staff told him, "Thanks, but no thanks."
Both have had a significant impact on the offense through two games. Wallace has seven total touchdowns through two games and has avoided the big mistake, helping mitigate bad situations by scrambling for short gains or throwing the ball away. He's completing three out of every four passes, averaging almost 70 yards rushing per game, and has only taken three sacks in two games.
All that achieved behind an offensive line that doesn't have a ton of experience. Four of the top six in terms of overall experience are gone. If there appears to be a major weakness offensively for the Rebels, it may be the offensive line.
Elsewhere, Ole Miss lost their potential best receiver in Nickolas Brazell to eligibility issues, though junior Donte Moncrief has been a productive target for Wallace, average 16 yards per reception. He scored on a long touchdown pass from Wallace early in the game against UTEP.
At running back, the quarterback through the end of last season, junior college transfer Randall Mackey, has been working in a Wildcat/running back role after playing wide receiver during the spring. Dropping five pounds since that time has aided his quickness. Speed Jeff Scott has had a strong start to the season after being hurt by the generally dysfunctional nature of the Rebel offense last season. At only 5-7, Scott can make it difficult for larger defenders to grab a tackling surface, and the move of the bigger, stronger Mackey to the position will keep him from shouldering the entire load offensively.
Ole Miss had some success defending the pass last season, but some of that may have been a result of being behind in most games. However, the secondary didn't get much help from the front four, so success in that area was almost surely a result of sticking with receivers longer in coverage than they would have
The star here is former five-star recruit CJ Johnson, a defensive end. At 6-1 and around 230 pounds, he won't get a lot of the opportunities to tee off against the pass that he would probably prefer, and he may have some issues holding up against the Texas running game. This raises a question -- how many 6-1, five-star defensive ends have there ever been? Desmond Jackson couldn't get any love for being 6-1, and he plays a position where leverage matters a little more and height is less important.
One-time sorta Texas target Trae Elston has been suspended for a hit above the shoulders against UTEP last week that was not flagged at the time. The best player in the secondary is Charles Sawyer, a junior rover who was second on the team in tackles last year with 70 and intercepted four passes while breaking up another 13.
At linebacker, Mike Marry in the middle is a big banger, but the rest of the linebackers are undersized.
Will Ole Miss stay in the 4-2--5 against the Texas offense? It would seem like a poor idea against the personnel for the Longhorns. If they do, can the offense exploit the small front six, which would have to roll one or two defensive backs into the box?
From the Coaches
, with the overview:
They're up-tempo, no huddle. They're No. 10 in total offense in the country with 551 yards, averaging 38.5 points a game. But look how balanced they are. They're rushing the ball for 283 yards per game, and passing it for 268 yards per game. The number one junior college quarterback in the country Bo Wallace is the young man that [Texas offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach] Bryan [Harsin] talked to a few times on the phone. And we just didn't decide to go for a junior college quarterback. We kept what we had. But Bo's a great player. Completing 76 percent of his passes, five touchdowns, one interception and two rushing touchdowns. So he'll be a handful for us this weekend.
Brown, on the Ole Miss defense:
They're 16th in rush defense in the country, only giving up 68.5 yards per game. They're 40th in total defense, giving up 329 yards a game, and fourth in the country in sacks. They've had nine sacks in two games. So they're averaging four-and-a-half sacks per game. And nine different guys have gotten those sacks. So they're really, really active.
Diaz goes all Mack Brown on Ole Miss, only he may be right:
But as I said last week with New Mexico with the first year coaching staff, you can tell and watch Ole Miss play, and they're a team that's not carrying the past with them. They're playing fast, playing free, playing hard, and they're extremely aggressive on both sides of the ball. They've been aggressive in their offensive play calling, and they do a lot of things to try to create explosive plays. They're always hunting the big chunk play. As we know in this game, you don't have to hit on very many of those to win a football game. So they're a very, very good football team.
Road Trippin' on Gameday
Accommodations are notoriously hard to come by in Oxford, even for the Texas football team. As a result, the 'Horns will fly into Memphis, stay there Friday night, and then make the drive down into Mississippi for the game, all without having a walk-through in the stadium prior to the game.
After the game, the team will make the trip to Tupelo and take a late-night flight out, arriving early in the morning back in Austin.
The logistics of the situation provide some additional challenges to the season's first road test.
If this was a game against Houston Nutt's Ole Miss team from early last season, or really any part of the season? Expected beatdown. Now, with both sides of the ball mostly chasing ghosts with only two weeks of game film to prepare with and Wallace on track to be one of the most efficient passers in the country, the odds of the Longhorns dominating in the game have decreased significantly.
As with New Mexico, the story here is that the offensive improvements, led, as mentioned, by Freeze and Wallace, will make the Rebels a dangerous opponent (though New Mexico wasn't particularly dangerous overall, just a threat to sit on the football). The defense, if undersized, at least has some new voices in place, which is sometimes just as important in producing a turnaround as the pure scheme installed.
In other words, don't freak out if Texas can't put this one away early and easily. Not even condescending to say that.
It's A Trap!
So, apparently it's not so cool to represent an old Southern plantation owner with your mascot. Who knew? Not Ole Miss, apparently, prior to 2003. The school finally wizened up to the fact that maybe caricatured representations of oppression and slavery don't have much of a place in the 21st century, then opened up voting for a new mascot, in 2010.
Naturally, the popular choice two years ago for a more enlightened generation of Rebels was Admiral Ackbar, the military commander for the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars. You know, Rebels, Rebel Alliance, all that.
"It's a trap!"
Extended version - ESPN Ole Miss Star Wars commercial (via ESPN)
Sadly, Ackbar didn't win, and Ole Miss now has a black bear as a mascot. Lame, but still way better than Colonel Reb.
Checking The Brona Fides
Ruling -- total bro. Might as well call him Bro Wallace, amirite?
Uh, Come Again?
The Ole Miss cheer is rather...goofy? Something:
Um, okay. Is that an existential crisis going on in the second line? Perhaps brought on by too many Hot Toddys.
Ole Miss has a receiver named Philander Moore. Word out of Oxford is that he has trouble keeping girlfriends, but not making friends.