Opening running lanes brings Rebels success

Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott runs behind his offensive line last month at Texas. (Michael Thomas/Associated Press)

Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott runs behind his offensive line last month at Texas. (Michael Thomas/Associated Press)

By Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

OXFORD – You don’t spell “football” with an M, and if Ole Miss wide receivers want it, they will learn to take the “me” out of their position.

Through four games this season, none appear to have trouble with that lesson.

The blocking of the Rebels’ receivers has been a topic of television analysts and a key element in the success of the perimeter run game with speedy tailback Jeff Scott.

“Typically you view receivers as guys that want the ball, ‘me’ guys and guys that are in it to see how many catches they can get,” offensive line coach Matt Luke said. “When they become unselfish and a guy like Donte (Moncrief), who gets a lot of credit for blocking and being excited about it, it shows the unselfishness of your team.”

Alabama split its ends out wide to help combat the Rebels on the edge, and the Crimson Tide held Ole Miss to 46 rushing yards, 1.8 yards per carry.

The Rebels went into Tuscaloosa averaging 250.3 yards a game, second in the SEC. They had surpassed 200 yards each time including 272 at Texas.

Tunsil’s rise

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said the Rebels didn’t get many opportunities to get wide against Alabama with Tide defensive ends extended wider than they would normally play. It was a tactic also used by Georgia last year and one players say they expect to more.

When that happens the Rebels need to do a better job of winning one-one-one battles on the line. The continued rise of freshman left tackle Laremy Tunsil may make Ole Miss better equipped to do that. Luke says Tunsil’s quick adaptation will allow him to begin to play senior left tackle Emmanuel McCray more at guard.

“Laremy continues to play very very well. His playing time will continue to increase, and I’m going to play Emmanuel inside some,” Luke said.

The Rebels’ pre-Alabama body of work shows top-notch blocking by its skill players, a key element in early run game success. Wide receivers coach Grant Heard stresses blocking to his players.

“He’s very clear … For us to be successful, for you to get balls, you want to set yourself up for some explosive plays then you consider blocking as the No. 1 important thing you have to do,” Freeze said.

Players are getting the message.

Repetition makes it clear

“We hear it all the time in practice,” senior wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan says. “If you don’t block you’re going to come out, or we’re going to run the same play till you get that block right.”

Perhaps the most important Ole Miss play this season – Scott’s 75-yard game-winning touchdown run against Vanderbilt – was made possible because Moncrief and freshman tight end Evan Engram sealed off Commodores on the edge.

“It’s huge. All of our guys are physical guys who want to block,” quarterback Bo Wallace said. “They’re always going to block good. Coach Heard coaches that up hard, and they take pride in it.”

parrish.alford@journalinc.com