Thanks to the bros over at Red Cup Rebellion for answering my questions. My answers to their questions will be up over at their site shortly.
Ole Miss is breaking in a new coach this year, and Hugh Freeze has already won more games than Houston Nutt did during all of last season. What was the general consensus when Freeze was hired, and how are Ole Miss fans feeling about him now?
The general consensus when he was hired was that he may be a good coach but he wasn't a big name. Even most fans of the hire though have had their expectations exceeded in year one. Sure, we're only 3-3, but for a team that went 2-10 last season before losing two NFL OTs and an NFL RB, things looked bleak. We've been an adequate team this season, something no one expected. A bowl is a possibility (albeit not a great possibility), and if you had told me we would even sniff a bowl heading into the year, I would have laughed. We have four to six seniors playing meaningful snaps.
I noticed the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium regulations prohibit "pom poms with stick handles." Two things: 1. Everyone knows they're called "shakers," not "pom poms." 2. How do y'all mix your bourbon in your Cokes during the game? I know Ole Miss has been winning the party for quite some time, so I would imagine y'all have figured something out.
Yeah. It's interesting. Essentially, they wanted to remove anything to which a confederate flag could be tied.
I personally go bourbon straight up. People who mix in games use their fingers I guess.
Bo Wallace is the Rebel quarterback. Is that the most Ole Miss name possible for a quarterback, or would it have to involve some variation of "Manning?" Also, what are Wallace's skills and attributes?
Bo would have to be spelled Beau (certainly not Beaux) for it to be the most Ole Miss name, and yeah... almost certainly he would have to have Manning as AT LEAST a middle name.
Wallace is an interesting player. I'm a big fan of his though I can recognize his faults. His biggest problem is that he's still learning what doesn't work against an SEC defense. When the season began, he never ever threw the ball away. Now, he's slowly learning that defenses in this league are fast, so you don't have time to wait for receivers to get open if they're not.
His strengths are tangibles. He's got great touch on deep passes (when his shoulder isn't messed up), he can get the ball into tight spots quickly, and he isn't terrible at pre-snap reads. As I mentioned, I have a rosier view of him than many fans (something that isn't generally the case).
How about the rest of the offense? The Rebels rank in the top five of the SEC in most offensive categories. What's the reason for this? Which players and schemes have been responsible for the most success?
Junior halfback Jeff Scott is a baller. He's averaging over six yards per carry despite playing against some tough defenses. He tweaked his ankle a bit in the A&M game, so he may not be full strength against y'all, but if he is, watch out. He hasn't broken one huge run yet this season, but he picks up yardage quickly and has been reliable (save for 4th and 1 inch versus Texas A&M).
Sophomore receiver Donte Moncrief is absolutely beastly. He put a clinic on Texas' first-round corners. It was just silly. I assume you'll use bracket coverage to try to stop him which will hopefully open up some opportunities for other receivers.
If I were to wear an Auburn hat in Oxford and walk around, shouting "pine box," would that get me beat up?
I can't vouch for other fans. I would have been pissed when Tuberville was still good. As it stands right now, I'd be tempted to say something like, "I know. Isn't he just a super-shitty guy?" I'm sure you'd agree.
Monte's son and Lane's little brother, Chris Kiffin, is the Rebel defensive coordinator. What kind of defense does he like to run? How much influence does he take from his dad?
He's not so much the defensive coordinator as much as he's the defensive line coach. Our defensive coordinator is Dave Wommack. (Oh yeah, Kiffin is the defensive recruiting coordinator. Reading can be hard for us sometimes. - ed.) Our base is technically a 4-2-5, though we haven't seen that defense in three weeks as our defense is totally adaptive. Against Alabama, we ran a 4-3. Against A&M, we ran a 3-3-5. I'm not sure what we'll be running against Auburn since the quarterback situation is up in the air.
More than anything, Chris Kiffin has shown a strong ability to teach defensive tackles and ends good technique. They're using their hands well and eating up blocks to let linebackers and safety hybrids make plays. Our defensive line isn't amazing, but they're young and improving every game. Oh yeah, and we're second in the SEC in sacks.
Defense hasn't been Ole Miss' strong suit this year. What have been the problems? Have the coaches and players done a good job of fixing any of those problems?
Well, when it comes down to it, we have three seniors who play much. We only have a few juniors who play much. Essentially, our defense isn't going to be all that different personnel-wise two years from now as it is now. That's a nice situation long-term, but it's not all that great for now. Our players are undersized but full of effort. After the wounded gerbils we saw trying to play defense last year, it's a welcomed change.
I will say though that our defense is a tad better than numbers suggest. As I'm sure you know from last season and the year before, when you run an up-tempo no-huddle, you get more possessions in, which means your opponent does too. We're not a great defense by any means, but we're also not as bad as a casual on-looker would assume.
Despite the defensive problems, Ole Miss is 11th in the country with 17 sacks. No Rebel has more than two sacks, so how is Kiffin spreading the pressure around?
It's the craziest thing. Coaches talk a lot about manufacturing a pass rush, but it rarely actually happens. This season, it has happened. First of all, we rotate a lot on the line of scrimmage. That leads to fresh legs and matchups that offensive linemen haven't seen all day. We also blitz from any position other than outside corners. Because the 4-2-5 we run has so many variations of different positions along the line of scrimmage, it's tough for offenses to know where pressure will come from, and we use that to our advantage. I'm not sure we'll continue to generate all these sacks, but it has been amazing so far.
Of all the individual and unit matchups, where do you think Ole Miss has the biggest advantage?
I think that, outside of your front four, our offensive skill players could present a real problem for your defense. It's not that they're amazing. It's that we use schemes to get them the ball in space, and many of them are pretty shifty after the catch (or handoff).
Junior wide receiver Korvic Neat is a player a lot of our fans hated on during his first two years in Oxford, but Freeze appears to understand how to use him in a way that Nutt never could. You get him the ball underneath and let him make defenders miss. With Moncrief likely drawing double coverage, Neat could have a big day.
What matchup, if any, scares you the most?
If I were Dave Wommack, your running backs would keep me up at night. The power runs y'all like to call could be very problematic for our undersized defense, as we're not necessarily built to handle a team who will run right at us.
We handled Alabama moderately well on their runs, but I can't tell at this point whether that was dumb luck or an actual testament to our ability to stop the run.
How do you think the game plays out? With such a bad Auburn team going into Oxford, are you pretty confident in a win, or are you worried the Rebels might screw it up?
I'm relatively confident in a win. I think the spread at this point is six points, and if I were a gambling addict, I would still probably put money on Ole Miss. It's not that I think Auburn's as bad as they look. I just think that you're catching us at the wrong point of the year, and we're catching you at the right time. Our players are mad and hungry for a win. They know they should have gotten one against A&M, and they're ready to get one Saturday. On the other hand, we've seen a lot of in-fighting from Auburn, and it's reminiscent of us last year. I think that if we could get up by double digits early, Auburn might just give up.
My prediction: Ole Miss by ten.
Ole Miss has to give up tailgating or football. Which do you choose?
While many of our fans may choose tailgating, I will always choose football. There aren't many things I wouldn't choose football over. It's just a remarkable game.