Rebels cut down playbook with Georgia looming

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – After a frightening offensive performance at Vanderbilt with 234 yards and one touchdown in a 30-7 loss, Ole Miss offensive coordinator David Lee has taken the approach of an editor of a bad horror movie.
Slash, slash, slash.
The goal is simplification, finding a few things the Rebels can do well to spark an offense that has struggled in its two games against major-college opponents.
The simplified offense will get its first test Saturday morning against Georgia, a team that is 1-2 overall, 0-2 against major opposition – just like Ole Miss.
Georgia’s losses have come against No. 4 Boise State (35-21) and No. 12 South Carolina (45-42).
The slashing of the Rebels’ playbook comes after what coaches and players say was an absolutely great week of practice heading into the Vanderbilt game.
How the team perceived the quality of its preparation last week left it completely at loss to understand the result.
“Last week was the best week of practice we’ve ever had, including camp, including anything in the spring, the throwing we’ve done all summer. Last week, Tuesday and Wednesday were two beautiful practices. We looked really good. We were confident,” Ole Miss quarterback Zack Stoudt said.
Coaches hit on the quality of practice theme immediately after the game.
“It wasn’t close to the week of preparation we had, how good it was. We prepared so well, we practiced so well. We looked so good, we were so sharp and so confident coming in,” Lee said.
Lee said then he felt the only way to proceed was to reduce the options in the playbook – to simplify and get really good, really comfortable at a smaller number of plays.
Tuesday was not a good start, he said.
After the first major day of preparation for Georgia, Lee was not pleased with the work of his wide receivers. He estimated he had already reduced the playbook by 30 percent and was prepared to reduce it more.
Signs of inexperience
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt knew in the off-season he would rely heavily on his signing class, particularly at receiver. Coaches say they’re seeing the signs of inexperience.
“We’re young out there. We’re making mistakes that young kids make,” Lee said. “These guys were in high school just six months ago trying to graduate. We’re struggling with it. We’re trying to make it simpler.”
In the quest for simplicity Lee says there are a few plays he can still hang a hat on.
“We’ve got the inside zone and outside zone (runs). We feel like that’s our staple, the plays we ran the clock out with and beat Southern Illinois in the last six minutes. We know where that play is,” he said. “The other one is the power play. I like the hard-nose of it.”
Lee liked what he saw on several power runs at Vanderbilt.
The danger in constantly reducing the playbook is becoming completely predictable to opponents. Stoudt says the present concern is not what opponents think but what the Rebels need to do to find some rhythm on offense.
Ole Miss has scored just one offensive touchdown this season against an FBS opponent, and that didn’t come until the Rebels were trailing 30-0 at Vanderbilt with 2 minutes, 15 seconds left to play.
Among 120 FBS teams, Ole Miss ranks No. 95 or lower in each statistical category for offense. The Rebels are No. 115 in total offense at 252.33 yards a game.
“After our last game, we’re not worried about what other defenses think. We just have to get something going for us, no matter how simple it is,” Stoudt said. “I don’t think we’re going to cut it back to where it’s like junior high ball out there, but we’re going to make some plays and get good at them. If you’re good at what you do, no matter what the defense does you should still be able to execute them.”
parrish.alford@journalinc.com