Big changes in Oxford
Rebels will lean heavily on pass attack
- What: Ole Miss vs South Alabama
- When: 6:30 p.m.
- Where: Oxford
- How to watch: ESPNU
Ole Miss has had, to put it mildly, a turbulent off-season. From a new notice of allegations to an upcoming meeting with the Committee on Infractions, the off field distractions have been there, to say nothing of the resignation of Head Coach Hugh Freeze. The Rebels will be breaking in a first time head coach and a brand new offensive system under new coordinator Phil Longo, who vows to play at a breakneck pace while instituting his variation of the power Air Raid offense.
All of those distractions go out the window when the ball gets put down today. All that matters is how much has Shea Patterson and the ultra talented receiving core progressed? Will the experienced offensive line gel and stay healthy? Will the defense play with more pride than was seen in the final game of last year, a lopsided loss in the Egg Bowl?
An off-season that took years off of several Rebel fans life ends at 6:30 tonight.
What to watch for
One thing can be said for the Hugh Freeze era in Oxford: he did not leave the cupboard bear on talent. There are young 4 & 5 stars all over the field, and none are more important than second year signal caller Shea Patterson, who was pressed in to action as a freshman after a late season injury to Chad Kelly last year. Patterson had his ups and downs leading a team that had high aspirations last year that quickly vanished after early season heartbreak losses to FSU and Alabama, but those same pressures are not on Patterson this year. He has ultra talented WR to throw the ball to. And Coach Longo has said that is what he intends to do: when you have the former #1 QB recruit in the country and five former 5-star WR, including Sophmore AJ Brown and the redshirt freshman D.K. Metcalf, you throw the ball. Look for large passing numbers in this opening game.
Area of conern
The obvious off-field issues aside, the Rebels are still being led by an unproven but dedicated head coach in Matt Luke. Couple that with questions marks on the defensive side of the ball and it will be up to talented young players to step up in the secondary and at linebacker. The defensive line has solid, proven contributors and will be led by Senior Marquis Haynes but depth along the front will be an issue. The Rebels cannot afford a repeat of last year in terms of injuries.
Ole Miss does not have the benefit of the doubt coming in to this season, and several publications have predicted a sub 6 win season. For them to prove those people wrong it will be squarely on the shoulders of their new offense. Expect them to try and put up video game like numbers, with inside sources from Ole Miss saying that Patterson is talking of insisting that he get the chance to showcase his skill set prominently. If he does so to the level he suggests he is capable of, and even without the possibility of a bowl game this year, Ole Miss will win this game handily and be one of the most exciting teams to watch in the country. Ole Miss 52- South Alabama 28