OXFORD – Coaches on both sides of the ball walked away happy after the first scrimmage of spring drills for Ole Miss as head coach Hugh Freeze put the Rebels through 100 plays at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday morning.
Quarterbacks coach Dan Werner was pleased with the decision-making of his starter, Bo Wallace, and also the primary backup candidates, DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan.
Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack thought his players did a good job of getting pressure on the quarterback, an area of struggle for the Rebels a year ago when they averaged 1.54 sacks, 96th among the 123 FBS teams.
The healthy return of ends C.J. Johnson and Carlos Thompson has been a good starting point for that.
“That’s nice to see. We lost C.J. and Carlos both last year. Now we’ve got them, Marquise Haynes, Issac Gross and Robert Nkemdiche’s coming on,” Wommack said. “I love the turnovers we’re getting. We need to eliminate big plays.”
There were big plays that led to Werner’s happiness.
Wallace started things off with a 65-yard touchdown pass to tight end Evan Engram on the scrimmage’s first play.
It was a sideline route, and when Engram slipped the defenders, no one else was close. Engram had five catches for 122 yards.
Wallace, with unofficial statistics from the controlled format, finished 15-for-27 for 240 yards and three touchdowns. He threw an interception on a sideline route that was batted up and picked off.
Wallace said the defense “is really bringing it, and we’re still moving the ball. That’s encouraging.”
Kincade was 6-for-9 for 69 yards with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Cody Core at the end of a two-minute drill. Buchanan was 6-for-8 for 40 yards.
Kincade, the more mobile of the two redshirt freshmen, carried nine times for 18 yards.
Former Lafayette star Jeremy Liggins was 1-for-8 passing, numbers that don’t reflect a nice completion over the middle that was negated by penalty.
Werner was more interested in seeing Liggins’ feet than his arm.
Liggins and freshman Kendrick Doss, a mid-year enrollee, wore red jerseys which meant they were live for contact.
“Jeremy is so big and physical. If it’s third-and-1, and you fake it and let him run downhill … It’s going to be tough to stop him from a 1-yard gain.”
The race to determine Wallace’s backup isn’t expected to be complete at the end of spring drills on April 5.
“I think they’re both right there,” Werner said. “We’ll keep on grading them and see where they end up at the end of the spring. They’re working hard, and they’re both going to be good quarterbacks for us one day.”