By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The strategic advantage of having an open date may be offset when your opponent has one too, but there’s no denying the benefit of extra preparation, Ole Miss players say.
Both the Rebels and the Arkansas Razorbacks had a extra week to prepare for their meeting on Saturday morning in Little Rock.
While much of last week’s Ole Miss practice was focused on fundamentals and had the Rebels looking at themselves, they carved out a good bit of time to look at the Razorbacks too.
“When you’re preparing for a team with just one week, the reps are real limited. You probably get 80-100 reps as opposed to having two weeks when you get 200 or 300 reps,” sophomore defensive end C.J. Johnson said. “That extra time helps you prepare and understand the game plan more and go out and play faster on Saturday.”
Linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche compared this week’s game to the opener against Central Arkansas when the Rebels were able to spend more than one week getting ready.
“I felt like we really got prepared for that game, and we really knew exactly what they were doing,” he said.
While much attention is given to the Arkansas passing game with quarterback Tyler Wilson, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze says both of the Razorbacks’ running backs are “home run” threats.
Davis was one of the top running backs in the SEC in 2010 but missed last year with an ankle injury.
Senior Dennis Johnson – who Freeze compared to Ole Miss tailback Jeff Scott – has been the more productive of the two backs.
With fewer opportunities, Johnson has averaged 5.9 yards per carry to 3.4 for Davis and has five rushing touchdowns to Davis’ two.
Carries between the two were almost even two weeks ago in Arkansas’ 49-7 win over Kentucky, Johnson with 12 carries and Davis with 13.
The Arkansas defense has at times been susceptible to running quarterbacks, but Freeze drew a distinction when talking about Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, an effective scrambler, and Louisiana-Monroe’s Kolton Browning, who had many called runs in ULM’s Week 2 upset of then-No. 8 Arkansas.
“I think Manziel is a whole different animal. I think everyone’s going to struggle with him. He’s like watching a video game from the sideline. And his were – I’ve watched that film quite closely – his were not designed quarterback runs,” Freeze said.
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace is the team’s third-leading rusher with 225 yards and five touchdowns on 80 carries, most of them on called runs.