What the numbers say about the Rebels

Bill Parcells once told us that ultimately, “You are what your record says you are.”

I love that quote, and I’m going to paraphrase it here: “You are what your numbers say you are.”

Well, here are the final numbers for Ole Miss in its first year under Hugh Freeze as head coach.

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze gets dunked after the Rebels' 38-17 win over Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze gets dunked after the Rebels’ 38-17 win over Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

I’m comparing them to the 2011 numbers to show the improvement – or lack of improvement in some cases – in the 17 team statistical categories charted by the NCAA. So the ranking you see is the national ranking, not an SEC ranking.

Ole Miss showed improvement in 14 of the 17 categories. In many cases the improvement was dramatic. In some cases it was very little.

As far as the 2011 numbers, remember that the whole team played like it was in “who cares” mode for the final three games after former coach Houston Nutt was fired.

Hugh Freeze was hired for offense, and the numbers showed a lot of improvement, up at least 34 spots in each category, and up 69 spots in scoring.

But look at the rushing defense and tackles for loss – up 87 and 93 spots.

Remember back in the spring when defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said he felt like he had five or six guys who could contribute in the SEC.

This coaching staff – on both sides of the ball – did a good job of getting contributions from returning players but also from newcomers in an abbreviated initial recruiting class.

Check out the Pass Defense numbers for the 2011 team. No. 22 in the nation is pretty good, but pass defense is based strictly on yards allowed.

The Ole Miss secondary was much better in 2011 under Keith Burns than it was the previous year. But look at the gap in 2011 for the rankings in Pass Defense and Pass Efficiency Defense. The lower efficiency ranking means the secondary wasn’t making many big plays – interception. The low passing yardage allowed is also a reminder that teams were running the ball to the tune of 225 yards a game.

The secondary was the youngest part of the defense this year where true freshmen Mike Hilton and Trae Elston were starters, where Quintavius Burdette was sprinkled in, and where Senquez Golson was basically a freshman all over again when the year started, having missed spring drills with baseball.

In theory, young guys will play better the next season. Golson was playing better at season’s end, getting his three interceptions in the last three games.

Special teams were a problem in different ways at different times this year, but it often showed up in the coverage units. LSU and Mississippi State come to mind.

There were losses or very little gain in the special teams categories.

Turnover margin is a pet peeve category for me. I think it’s the most important. While Freeze’s first team gained 37 spots vs. the 2011 squad, the improvement wasn’t enough. It won’t be until the average is on the plus side. Freeze has to find a way to help his quarterback reduce the number of interceptions thrown.

At the end of the numbers, the improvement is what you would expect to see for a team that won five more games than it did in 2011.

Here are the Numbers:

Category: 2012 average, 2012 rank, 2011 rank, Ranking change

Rushing Offense: 173.85, 49, 83, plus 34

Passing Offense: 249.92, 49, 107, plus 58

Total Offense: 423.77, 46, 114, plus 68

Scoring Offense: 31.46, 47, 116, plus 69

Rushing Defense: 129.31, 25, 112, plus 87

Pass Efficiency Defense: 135.83, 78, 83, plus 5

Total Defense: 375.85, 46, 90, plus 44

Scoring Defense: 27.62, 60, 96, plus 36

Net Punting: 36.57, 61, 24, minus 37

Punt Returns: 5.58, 95, 3, minus 92

Kickoff Returns: 20.02, 82, 83, plus 1

Turnover Margin: minus-08, 63, 100, plus 37

Pass Defense: 246.54, 80, 22, minus 58

Passing Efficiency: 140.41, 40, 113, plus 73

Sacks: 2.92, 11, 110, plus 99

Tackles For Loss: 7.92, 4, 97, plus 93

Sacks Allowed: 2.62, 97, 101, plus 4

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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