In the days following Ole Miss' 30-7 loss at Vanderbilt, the theme was "simplify."
After the Vanderbilt game offensive coordinator David Lee told us he'd cut 30 percent from the playbook in an effort to get his players comfortable at doing a smaller number of things really well. He mentioned protection schemes, not just plays, but Monday head coach Houston Nutt's emphasis was much more on the protection.
“We scaled back mostly the protections. We thought we had too many protections. Our backs and wide receivers, it's easier for them. We can put in plays, get into the playbook and do what we need to do. It doesn't do any good if you can't protect it, if you're confused in the front. That's the No. 1 thing we did, simplify the protection,” Nutt said at his weekly presser yesterday.
With new starting quarterback Randall Mackey coming off a solid performance against Fresno State, the question is how much of the playbook did the Rebels use and how much more, what different things, might they try next week against Alabama, which leads the nation in rush defense and scoring defense?
Going into the Fresno State game, Bulldogs coach Pat Hill was concerned more about Ole Miss tailback Jeff Scott than Brandon Bolden, who rushed for 228 yards against Fresno in 2010. Maybe that's because he knew Bolden was hurt, but Hill also had genuine praise for the Ole Miss option game, led in 2010 by Jeremiah Masoli.
The Rebels were not going to be an option threat with Zack Stoudt. They could be with Mackey. With the offense getting things done in other ways at Fresno, Ole Miss didn't show option until the fourth quarter when Mackey kept for a 9-yard gain as part of the 15-play, 88-yard drive. Seems to me they ran it one other time, but play-by-play runs together in those late games when you turn your attention to deadline.
Mackey was effective at Fresno. He missed some passes, hit some big ones and had a couple of drops. Freshman Donte Moncrief had two really big plays in the passing game, a 57-yard gain on a screen pass to set up a field goal for a 10-point edge and before that the catch on the 2-point conversion play. But the Rebels will be stronger with Mackey and a good option game. They need to successfully attack the perimeter, because they have not shown an ability to line up and blow people off the ball with power running.
With an open date this week and more time to tweak the offense to fit Mackey, it wouldn't be surprsing to see more option against Alabama.