New assistants eye changes in Ole Miss offense

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – The first thing David Lee did upon resettling was to look at home movies.
Of his new home, not his old one.
Lee was named Ole Miss offensive coordinator in January, the third in four seasons for Rebels coach Houston Nutt, but he is by no means a stranger. Lee was originally scheduled to join Nutt in Oxford from Arkansas following the 2007 season but accepted an NFL position in Miami. He coached with Nutt for two previous stints at Arkansas.
Lee and new wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer have been busy meeting players, busier looking at video of those players in the 2010 season and considering what can be done to improve on a disappointing 4-8 season.
“I’d like to try and cut back what they did last year,” Lee said. “It looks like (Jeremiah) Masoli brought a lot of ideas, the coaches coached it, and sometimes it was feast or famine. I’d like to have four or five concepts, including the direct snap and get some consistency in that segment of the offense.”
At the time of Lee’s hiring, Nutt announced that Lee would also call plays, a change in philosophy for Nutt, who has long called his own.
From his early video study, Lee says the talent and depth at running back – led by rising senior Brandon Bolden who narrowly missed 1,000 yards last year – is what has caught most of his attention.
He singles out left tackle Bradley Sowell as one who “jumped off the film” when looking at the offensive line.
He was concerned to see 10 players in the quarterbacks room, six of them walk-ons to whom he explained the facts of life, saying the ones the staff had “made some investment would be looked at first.”
The top three in the race will be returning players Nathan Stanley and Randall Mackey and mid-year junior college transfer Zach Stoudt.
Memphis native Barry Brunetti has transferred from West Virginia and is seeking a hardship waiver of the NCAA’s one-year residency rule. If successful, Brunetti will be eligible in 2011.
Stanley and Stoudt are tall pocket-passers, Mackey a 6-foot speed guy who is coming back from last week’s minor knee surgery. His availability for spring drills, which begin March 28, is unclear.
“We need 700 snaps to get ready,” Lee joked. “Obviously we’re not going to get that many.”

The vertical attack
Brewer was hired shortly before signing day as receivers coach and passing-game coordinator.
Much has been made of the Rebels’ lack of a consistent deep threat since the departure of Mike Wallace following the 2008 season. Clearly there was an emphasis on speed with the incoming receiver signees, but Brewer, who wants to establish a downfield attack, isn’t convinced his man isn’t already on campus.
Departed senior Markeith Summers led the team with 575 yards and six touchdowns last year but had only 28 catches on the season.
“I hear we don’t have a deep threat, but my eyes have to see that,” Brewer said. “I want everyone to come in with a clean slate. That guy might be here. They say we have some speed in smaller guys, Philander Moore, Korvic Neat, Ja-Mes Logan. I will sure give them a chance to have a say about a deep threat.”
Getting open behind the secondary isn’t only about speed, Brewer says.
“Sometimes it’s about route-running ability. When you get a Mike Wallace you have both, but how many of those do you have?
“It’s about leverage and position and having the ball thrown over the outside shoulder. If our guy catches the ball 40 yards downfield, I consider that a deep throw.”
Speed makes things easier, and while the Rebels hope to have more of it on the field, Lee says he’ll try to see there is more of it in the coaching booth.
One way he wants to change the offense is with pace through use of the direct snap to a different player but also with no-huddle possessions.
Ole Miss used its version of the direct snap some last year but hasn’t had great success with the “Wild Rebel” since the 2008 season.
“We need something to change the pace, speed ball I call it, where we can put stress on the defensive coordinator, maybe take him out of the game and not let him change personnel groups on us,” Lee said. “They will put pressure on us with the blitz. One way to pressure them is to have your base offense but have a knuckle ball too, a way to throw the blitz back at them.”

Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or parrish.alford@journalinc.com.