Here is reason No. 1 that Ole Miss will be improved in 2011
Put this in the category of intangibles. Can you really imagine a worse performance than the Rebels showed in a 52-14 loss against an average Tennessee team? Or in losing a 31-10 third-quarter lead against I-AA Jacksonville State?
All games weren't that bad for Ole Miss, but even in the SEC games the Rebels played close they gave up the “explosion plays” they talk about. Losses to Vanderbilt, Alabama and Arkansas each included a touchdown play of at least 70 yards by the opponent.
I hesitate to use this as a reason. It's not my personality to think things can't be worse. It is hard to imagine, though.
Those three losses above were all two-touchdown losses. It's not a stretch to believe one would have been an Ole Miss win without the long touchdown allowed.
There will be great emphasis on reducing – hopefully eliminating – those big plays allowed by other teams.
Talking about it alone won't get it done, of course. The map to defensive improvement will include, among other things, press coverage and more physical play in the secondary. There's more secondary speed to work with too, albeit inexperienced.
The other teams in the West aren't standing still. They're trying to get better too.
But at least one reason for improvement for Ole Miss is that 2010 was such a struggle.