Offense In Review: Ole Miss Spread Part I


This past Saturday, the crowd of 50, 544 people at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium seemed to have a collective feeling, “not again”. Two years removed from the most humiliating loss in the Southeastern Conference since the Black Bears of Maine stunned Mississippi State in 2004, the Rebels found themselves trailing an FCS team at halftime. Bo Wallace threw an interception that led to a UCA touchdown, the defense allowed three drives of 60 yards or more, and the special teams botched a pair of field goal attempts. Luckily for north Mississippi psychiatrist receptionists, the Red and Blue got it together in the last 30 minutes.

Quarterback(s): It never feels good to pluralize “quarterback” when speaking of your offense. It worked on Saturday however, as both Ole Miss quarterbacks played well (my apologies to Mikhail Miller). Wallace was 20-24 for 264 yards and a pair of scores through the air to go along with 82 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Aside from a horrendous interception in the first half and a goal line fumble, the sophomore transfer played close to flawless. I know that it is hard to say “flawless” when you have two outliers, but he spread the ball around well and made good decisions. He made good reads and checked off his primary receivers when he had to. The offensive game plan worked well for him, because he was blessed with an open receiver more often than not. Wallace also led the team in rushing yards, looking very impressive on a 25 yard scamper for six that gave the Rebels a 6-0 lead.

Barry Brunetti saw limited action, but played well. We have grown accustomed to not seeing many shots down the field from Brunetti, and that is okay. We do not need make-or-break plays from him when he is in, just meticulous drives, and he did that job very well on Saturday. In his three drives, Brunetti got 6 first downs and punched the ball in twice. He was 5-7 for 66 yards and a touchdown and ran the ball 8 times for 54 yards and another touchdown. He was shifty getting away from pressure and is a very viable option if we need him.

Grade: B+

Running Backs: As expected, Freeze used a plethora of backs in week 1 and not one of them was Jeff Scott, who is still plagued by a bad back. Scott’s back was not the only one needing improvement, as the Ole Miss “backs” only averaged 3.5 YPC. Randall Mackey led the Rebels in carries and yards, rushing for 50 yards on 15 carries. Mackey showed some signs of brilliance, but also lacked maturity on certain runs that required north-south instead of east-west. I’Tavius Mathers ran for 20 yards and should see more carries going forward. Fellow freshman Jaylen Walton ran the ball twice and recorded the only touchdown by an Ole Miss running back. On his first carry as a Rebel, Walton took the ball near-sideline, cut back, and went 10 yards for the score. Devin Thomas and Nic Parker combined for 5 yards to bring the total up to 84 for the running backs.

Grade: C-

Tight Ends/Receivers: I’ll tell you what, it looks fun to be an Ole Miss Rebel receiver. In the new system, the unit has had tons of space to get open and they took advantage of it. Donte Moncrief, the lone 4-star receiver left from the 2011 trio, led the way with 8 receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown. Moncrief is better than the UCA corners, plain and simple, and he showed it. His routes were clean and his speed was explosive. Korvic Neat surpassed his reception total from all of last year by catching 6 balls for 75 yards. Dubbed as “the next Dexter McCluster” by Houston Nutt, Neat has really disappointed in his first couple of years. This game was a promising sign going forward as his athletic ability may finally shine through on the field. Jamal Mosley was another pleasant surprise, as we did not even know if we were going to see him play yesterday. The Oxford Square regular racked up 79 yards on 4 completions, including a touchdown from Brunetti. Freeze’s system allows athletic tight ends to compile big numbers, and Mosley looks poised to do just that.

Not all of the surprises were candy and nuts however, as there were two big disappointments. All offseason, the coaching staff raved about the improvements by Vincent Sanders and Ja-Mes Logan. That did not show against Central Arkansas as anyone who has not glanced at the box score might not have known that they played. The two combined for 2 catches and just 16 yards receiving. Playing alongside a star like Moncrief, these two will have plenty of opportunities to make plays. It was disappointing to see them squander that opportunity against a lackluster secondary, but it is only week one.

Grade: B-

Offensive Line: The offensive line had a day marred by inconsistency. On quarterback draws, they interior opened up truck-sized holes for Wallace and Brunetti. On the flip side, we saw far too much dancing in the pocket to feel easy about their performance. Pierce Burton looked good in his debut, but his tackle counterpart, Emmanuel McCray left a lot to be desired. The interior line played pretty well as time went on, especially Aaron Morris. This group will have to improve steadily week-to-week and I have no concerns that they will not.

Grade: C+

The offense gave the team a great chance to win yesterday, hanging up 49 points. There were some growing pains, but most of the offense looked comfortable, especially the quarterbacks. We have grown accustomed to the most talked about “spread” being the one at our favorite tent. If this offense can keep up this kind of production, that may change very quickly.