Three and out: Ole Miss wraps up spring practice with Grove Bowl

Posted on Apr 5 2019 - 5:50am by Joshua Clayton

Spring practice comes to an end at 3 p.m. Saturday when the Ole Miss football team scrimmages in the annual Grove Bowl in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Rebels fans should be excited for the fall season as new coordinators Rich Rodriguez and Mike McIntyre will give the team a new look moving forward. Matt Luke and his staff will try their hardest to veil any schemes or strategies, so this won’t be much of an indication of how exactly the team will look in Memphis on August 31. However, this scrimmage is a chance for fans to see the contrast in fundamental philosophy.

Ole Miss football players returned to the practice field this week in preparation for the 2019 football season. File photo by Christian Johnson

In this column, we’ll take a look at three questions for the weekend: one on offense, one on defense and one overall.

1st down: What does the run game look like under Rich Rodriguez?

There were times during the 2018 season when you could see Matt Luke physically unsettled by some of the things Phil Longo tried to do with the offense. Luke was an offensive lineman, tried and true, and balance and production in the run game were key when looking for Longo’s replacement.

Rich Rodriguez has a resume that suggests he is the answer. A pioneer of the read option, Rodriguez was the architect of the explosive 2005 West Virginia offense, when Pat White and Steve Slaton combined for over 2000 rushing yards and 24 rushing touchdowns.

Rodriguez most recently found success in Arizona in 2017, when quarterback Khalil Tate had 1,411 yards on the ground along with 12 rushing touchdowns, earning Heisman buzz throughout the season.

Matt Corral is the no-doubt starter for the Rebels, and it will be interesting to see how he works in the offense, as he’s had limited meaningful snaps. Scottie Phillips has already proven he’s capable of being a feature back in the SEC, but it takes time to adjust to a young quarterback and offensive line.

2nd down: Can the defense cause a turnover?

The defense last season was simply inexcusable. With Wesley McGriff getting the boot and Mike McIntyre coming in, the Landshark D is just one of the many questions surrounding the anticipation of the 2019 season.

McIntyre has been installing his 3-4 defense over the past month during practices. The defense will obviously not be fully installed, and we’ll see how different that side of the ball is as far as positioning and scheme.

This Ole Miss defense lacks size, speed and experience, which is not a good combination if you’re trying to win in the SEC. This team does not have the athletes to lineup and stop many teams, so the only hope for this squad, save miraculous development on every level, is to manufacture takeaways. McIntyre’s defense is designed to get the fastest players on the field to move around pre-snap, disguising the blitz and disrupting the quarterback’s reads.

Once again, do not expect any elaborate blitz packages or coverages, but look for the base structure that McIntyre can build off of at the beginning of fall camp.

3rd down: Does this weekend matter?

The short answer: No. The long answer: Still no.

No one in the stands will complain about more football, but everyone on that field, including Matt Luke and the players, look at this like any other spring practice. I believe if you ask Matt Luke to be honest, he’d rather have a pizza party to wrap up the spring season.

The agenda for Ole Miss football on Saturday is to survive without injuries. The last thing this squad needs is for its lack of depth to get even worse with key players getting hurt, losing valuable development time through the summer.

It’s almost certain that the first two questions will not be answered this weekend, so I’d advise Ole Miss fans to sit back, enjoy the show and pray for health.