By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – How much up-tempo offense Hugh Freeze runs in his second year as Ole Miss coach could depend not on quarterback Bo Wallace and his receivers but on their teammates up front.
And teammates yet to be named.
Freeze has often said the pushing his offense to run plays at a quicker pace can be taxing for his linemen.
Statistically, the Rebels were much better on offense this season than before Freeze arrived, but they’re not where he believes they can be.
“It’s not full-speed now. I really feel like Year 2 is when you really see them get the hang of it. There’s no question we’re better now than we were at the beginning,” Freeze said.
Getting the most out of the up-tempo style requires more offensive linemen that coaches feel they can trust.
Junior Patrick Junen played the most of any reserve lineman this season and is expected to move into the starting lineup at right guard in place of senior A.J. Hawkins next season.
Corey Gaines, Justin Bell, Robert Conyers and Derrick Wilson have the best chances to see time in what offensive line coach Matt Luke hopes will be an expanded playing rotation in 2013.
“I’m hoping to be able to play eight next year. I’m really working Corey Gaines hard at center. I think he can give us a little punch there with some strength,” Luke said.
The Rebels currently have two offensive tackles committed and will try to sign a linemen to replace former commit Brandon Hill, who has since said he will play at Alabama.
When all the variables are in place Freeze says he would like his offense “to be about 80 percent tempo.”
Ole Miss is currently fifth in the SEC in total offense, sixth in scoring offense, after finishing 11th in both categories a year ago.
The Rebels were often successful in the tempo package. Freeze cranked it up at the end of the first half against Arkansas and got a touchdown, then again at the end of the second half and got a last-play field goal for the win.
“I love when coach calls a game like that. That’s how I want to play. I like going up-tempo the whole time. It’s frustrating when he slows it down, but I understand why he does it,” Wallace said. “I’m trying to have the accelerator down the whole game.”
Wallace has the unique perspective of having seen what Freeze’s offense can be in the second year.
Wallace redshirted as a true freshman at Arkansas State in 2010 and was with the Red Wolves in the spring before transferring to East Mississippi Community College.
“I remember watching them the second year. I think their offense was a lot different. Coach Freeze is always working on something new. We’ll come out next year, and you’ll see something you didn’t see this year. This offense is an offense that is always evolving. I’m really excited for next year, and the things he’s going to come up with.”