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Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-ULL

Three areas to watch as Ole Miss faces Louisiana-Lafayette in its home opener Saturday.

Wearing the Bull's-Eye

After a 2-0 start with wins over Boise State and Vanderbilt, Ole Miss moved up to No. 14 in the Associated Press poll, its highest ranking since 2009. 

Many are already pointing to the matchup with No. 3 Alabama on Oct. 4 in Oxford, but two home games stand in the way, starting with Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.

"There's no question in my mind the bull's-eye that will be on our chest for this week with the group from Lafayette will be huge," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We expect to get their best shot and we have to be prepared for it."

There's also a mutual familiarity from when Freeze was the head coach at Arkansas State in 2011, which was also Mark Hudspeth's first season at Louisiana-Lafayette. 

"They didn't play their best the other night," said Freeze, referring to Louisiana-Lafayette's 48-20 loss to Louisiana Tech. "They turned it over and put them in bad spots, but I know we'll get their best, and just a couple years ago they either beat Florida or had them right to the wire.

"From being in that conference, I know how it is for those kids to get a chance to play in these arenas and these games. I know Mark will have them ready and it'll be a good game." 

Developing Offensive Line Depth

From week one to week two, the false start penalties decreased from eight to two, while the yards per rush average increased from 2.1 to 3.6, but the coaches continue to want to see improvement from the offensive line as the season progresses.

Freeze said Ole Miss will continue its offensive line rotation against Louisiana-Lafayette, with sophomore tackle/center Robert Conyers and freshman guard Rod Taylor seeing extended action in reserve roles. 

Freeze also mentioned Craig Frigo as a candidate for additional reps, but it remains to be seen if redshirt freshman offensive tackle Christian Morris has progressed enough to be game ready.

"He's got a ways to go," Freeze said. "The last couple of weeks, he's been with the scout team and hasn't been working the scheme that we're running. His technique is a ways away too because he hasn't played in a while. I'm glad we have him. We're going to bring him along because we could certainly use him before the year is over for sure, but he still has a ways to go." 

Freeze Eyes Two Areas for Improvement

In addition to continuing to work out ways to effectively run the football to be balanced on offense, Freeze mentioned two areas where he wants to see improvement going forward.

Offensively, Freeze wants to see improvements in red-zone scoring, where the Rebels have scored six touchdowns and kicked two fields goals in 10 trips to the red zone through two games.

"In the red zone, sometimes you have to be hard-nosed to run it in, and if they load the box, we feel pretty good about throwing it up to Laquon (Treadwell)," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "It's going to be one of those things, where we're either going to pound it in there, or if they want to put a bunch of people in the box, we feel like we have receivers who can make some plays."

Defensively, Freeze wants the defense to continue to limit explosive plays. He has said on more than one occasion, he's confident in the defense if the opponent has to drive the length of the field consistently. 

Through two games, the Rebels have allowed just eight plays of 20 yards or more, which has helped lead to allowing just 8.0 points per game, which ranks fifth in the NCAA and second in the SEC.

"We stopped the run primarily and we got some pressure on the quarterback and we didn't give up explosive plays and I think that's key for us this year," Freeze said after a 41-3 win over Vanderbilt. "We want to make people drive to earn points and I think we did that well."

Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-Vanderbilt

Three areas to watch as Ole Miss travels to Nashville for its SEC opener against Vanderbilt from LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans.

Rebels Look to Get Ground Game Rolling

The coaches challenged the players this week after Ole Miss rushed for just 71 yards on 34 attempts (a 2.1 yards per rush average), and had no gains of 20 yards of more. The Rebels also look to clean up their penalties, as they committed seven false starts in the first half alone against Boise State.

For Vanderbilt, it will be its second game after switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive alignment under its new coaching staff. In their first game, the Commodores allowed 4.3 yards per play, including 3.2 yards per play on the ground, and held Temple to 2-of-17 on third-down conversions.

"We made the adjustments at halftime and did much better in the second half," said Ole Miss offensive line coach Matt Luke on Tuesday. "We can play more physical and obviously play better. That's the goal. You have to go out there and go to work and get your mistakes corrected. You kind of have a sick feeling even though you won the game, and you want to try to get that corrected going into game two."

Commodores Seek Consistency at Quarterback

After playing three different quarterbacks in a 37-7 season-opening loss to Temple, Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said he is looking for consistency at the position against Ole Miss.

Sophomore Patton Robinette, graduate student Stephen Rivers and redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary are all listed as co-starters on the depth chart this week, and Mason said he would not announce the starter publicly prior to the game.

Robinette started the game against Temple, completing 4-of-6 passes for 38 yards, while Rivers earned the most playing time, completing 12-of-25 passes for 186 yards and an interception.

"You go through the process of evaluating and you want to see what you see in practice measure up to what you see on game day," said Mason in his weekly press conference Tuesday. "We don't have the consistency at the position that you'd like but I needed to see all three guys in order to see where we are."

Rivalry Feel, NFL Atmosphere in SEC Opener

It's a rivalry born out of competitiveness, but that's what Ole Miss and Vanderbilt have become in recent years. There have been notable exceptions, but it's been a closely contested series, with 10 of the last 15 meetings decided by eight points or less.

Two years ago, Vanderbilt erased a 17-point second-half deficit, and rallied to win 27-26 in Oxford. Last year, in Nashville, Ole Miss snapped the Commodores' three-game winning streak in the series with a 39-35 win behind a late 75-yard touchdown run from Jeff Scott.

Saturday marks the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams and the game will be played inside LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. With a large Ole Miss contingent in the Nashville area, it might resemble a neutral-site to a pro-Ole Miss crowd.

"They tend to get up extremely high for us," said Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze of Vanderbilt. "It means a lot being in such close proximity in recruiting. We recruit a lot of the same kids in the Tennessee area. It means a lot to both programs. It's been every competitive and they have always played us tough up there for whatever reason."


Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-Boise State

Three areas to watch as Ole Miss opens its 2014 season in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against Boise State from Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

Contrast in Experience

Boise State has one of the youngest teams in the country with 67 freshmen and sophomores among the team's 105-player roster, and the youth is apparent along the offensive line compared to the deep and experienced Ole Miss defensive line.

Boise State returns just 26 starts along its offensive line, tied for the seventh-fewest in the nation. Entering 2014, Marcus Henry had started a team-high 12 games, followed by Rees Odhiambo (eight), Travis Averill (three), Steven Baggett (two) and Mario Yakoo (one).

With their two returning starters switching positions -- Henry moving from right guard to center and Odhiambo moving from right tackle to left tackle -- the Broncos are breaking in a new starter at each position along the offensive line.

Ole Miss returns 59 starts among its two-deep along the defensive line, led by Bryon Bennett with 21 starts, followed by C.J. Johnson (17), Robert Nkemdiche (10), Woodrow Hamilton (nine) and Lavon Hooks (2), not including Issac Gross (11) who may or may not play against Boise State. 

The Rebels also add FIU transfer Fadol Brown and mid-year enrollee Marquis Haynes, who have drawn rave reviews throughout fall practice.

First Live Look at Special Teams

Junior running back Jaylen Walton has served as the team's primary kick returner in each of the last two seasons. Outside of Walton, there are capable but unproven players in many key roles on special teams.

Redshirt freshman punter Will Gleeson has impressed throughout fall practice with his sky punt and coming-out punts, but he has not seen action in a game. 

Senior Andrew Fletcher, who converted both of his PAT tries in the two games he has played, and freshman Gary Wunderlich are listed as co-starters at kicker. 

Sophomore safety Anthony Alford is listed as the starting punt returner, and while he played in nine games with starts at quarterback for Southern Miss in 2012, he has not fielded a punt in game action.

Freeze has talked about the team's depth, and it will likely show on the special teams coverage and return units, but it will be the first significant action for many key players.

Freshman Impact

It might not have the star power of the 2013 signing class, but the coaches have raved about the depth of the 2014 class from top to bottom. Compared to years past, there are far fewer freshmen pressed into significant roles, with just five among the two-deep in Rod Taylor (RG), Marquis Haynes (DE), A.J. Moore (Huskie) Kendarius Webster (BCB) and C.J. Hampton (FS).

"This circus around recruiting now and the social media and everything that builds these kids up to be something so, so phenomenal -- they are good players, but when they get to the real world of this level of football, there are also a lot of good players here," head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday. "We hope that continues to where we don't have to play as many."

In addition to those five, Freeze also mentioned defensive back C.J. Moore, linebacker Demarquis Gates and perhaps wide receiver Markell Pack as freshmen who will get significant snaps in the season opener Thursday.

Look for the freshman impact on special teams, particularly early in the season.

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

    in post Heisman House Tour Heads to Oxford for Ole Miss-Georgia

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