By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
In a state of rebuilding there are few aspects of the game to which Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze can look and say, ‘That’s an advantage for us.’
He’s hopeful that his offense will become that advantage, but he will have to find more players than he feels he can trust right now.
Whether you call it spread or up-tempo, the concept of doing something a little different, something that most of the defenses in the SEC don’t see on a regular basis, can benefit Ole Miss.
Freeze was able to install only about 50 percent of his package during spring drills and told the crowd at SEC Media Days Thursday that the Rebels’ depth problems could keep him from forcing the tempo against opponents as much as he’d like.
“It’s going to be a juggling act. How many consistent plays of up-tempo can we do without putting ourselves at a disadvantage because of lack of depth?” Freeze asked. “I don’t think we can sell out to that for the entire game or even for long, consistent periods.”
With depth for his offense at Arkansas State last season Freeze had a unit that ranked 24th in total offense, 16th in passing offense and its 154.2 rushing yards per game ranked second in the Sun Belt.
Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Alpin completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,588 yards.
Quarterback is one position in which Freeze stands to have a little depth, not because Barry Brunetti and Bo Wallace have a wealth of game experience – Brunetti has played extensively in three games, Wallace a juco transfer has appeared in none – but because the two of them have been neck-and-neck for the starting job since the middle of spring.
Freeze says he’s seen both quarterbacks make physical gains this summer under the guidance of new strength coach Paul Jackson.
Brunetti and Wallace will go into August camp as co-No. 1s.
“As a coach, it would be hard for me to pick which one,” defensive back Charles Sawyer said. “They’re both good players. They compete against each other, but at the same time they’re working with each other, helping each other out.”
Sawyer says that attitude of team first is “the difference between last year and this year.”
Another noticeable difference will be the offense when Freeze gets it where he wants it. Much attention was placed on the offensive line in the spring. Freeze says as a position group that’s typically the last one to grasp and gain confidence in the remaking of the offense.
Freeze is hopeful he’ll find players in his signing class that can acclimate quickly and help him force the tempo more often than he thinks he can right now.
“We have some young kids coming in, and maybe they can add depth to us early,” he said. “That’s something we’re going to have to balance throughout the year.”