By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Known for offensive success at his previous coaching stops, Hugh Freeze will have a chance to show off the new Ole Miss offense today.
The installation of his system is still in progress, and Freeze is hopeful his players will do good things today in the Grove Bowl, the annual end-of-spring intra-squad game.
Freeze has seen improvements near the end of spring drills, but he still has concerns.
“Really we’ve got to get better awareness. Maybe some of it is that they are still not playing free and fast, still having to think too much,” he said.
Kickoff is at 1 p.m., and tickets are $10. The game will be televised live by CSS.
Former Ole Miss star Eli Manning will be among a group appearing on the Grove stage at 11 a.m., for a discussion entitled “The NFL and Beyond.”
Sophomore Nick Brassell will not compete in the game today. Brassell was held out of most of spring drills to concentrate on his academics. In the short amount of time he was with the team, Freeze assessed him as an “NFL corner.” Brassell played wide receiver and cornerback last year with offense being his primary responsibility.
Barry Brunetti – one of three returning starters on the roster – and junior college transfer Bo Wallace have been competing for the starting quarterback position with mixed results. Neither has a firm grip on the job.
Other goals for the offense this spring have been to solidify a first five and some depth along the offensive line, to strengthen a running game with little depth at running back and to add depth at receiver.
Improved awareness will help the Rebels better manage down and distance, Freeze says.
“We just cannot take negative plays in this offense and survive. We can live with third-and-7, but we can’t live with third-and-10 or 11 and 12. We have to stay on schedule and in front of the chains.”
An explosive player like Randall Mackey lining up as a slot receiver may allow the Rebels to avoid those nasty situations.
Mackey began the spring as part of the quarterback competition but never rose about No. 3 in the race.
He has embraced the move to receiver and has helped the offense excel in the perimeter running game.
“He’s physical … very, very physical. He’ll stiff-arm you,” Ja-Mes Logan said.
Logan, as a junior the most experienced of the receivers, says the group has been happy to have Mackey become a part.
“We would joke with him everyday before they made the move. Now that he’s in the room, we got what we wanted,” he said.