A lot of things haven’t gone right with Ole Miss football this season, but one thing that has is special teams.
The Rebels continue to lead the nation in punt returns, based largely on early success from Jeff Scott and an 81-yard punt return touchdown by Nick Brassell.
Scott had a 44-yard return against BYU and a 67-yard return for a touchdown against Southern Illinois. That moved him up on the scouting report, and opponents have limited his chances in recent weeks. Scott has just seven returns on the season and just one in the last four games.
Punter Tyler Campbell led the NCAA in punting last year. He currently ranks fifth in the SEC and 25th in the NCAA with a 43.6-yard average. What’s been impressive is how Campbell has changed his game. He’s been called on for the “rugby” punts many times, the on-the-run punts designed for a bounce and roll, sort of the modern-day pooch punt.
Campbell has had 20 punts downed inside the 20, and as a result, the Rebels’ net punting has improved from eighth in the SEC and 59th in the nation to a current standing of third in the SEC and 21st in the nation at 39.04 yards per attempt.
Kicker Bryson Rose is another success story. Many times the Ole Miss offense hasn’t gotten in field goal range, or Rose would have more attempt.
The NCAA ranks kickers on made field goals per game. Rose is only 5-for-5 this season, and that ranks him 10th in the SEC and tied for 94th nationally.
But he’s striking the ball with more authority, and his leg strength appears to be improved.
Rose, a former walk-on and Raleigh, N.C., native, has yet to attempt a kick of 50 yards or more, but nailed through a career-long 43-yarder against Arkansas two weeks ago and a 39-yarder against Auburn last week, both with plenty of leg to spare.
What’s been most impressive about Rose is not what he’s done this season but what he’s done over his two-year starting career. He’s hit 15 consecutive field goals, just three shy of the SEC record, and has hit all but two of his career field goal kicks, going 21-for-23.