By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Turmoil in Texas may not necessarily give No. 25-ranked Ole Miss an advantage Saturday night when the Rebels face the unranked Longhorns in Austin.
Texas coach Mack Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after his team allowed 679 total yards, 550 on the ground, in a 40-21 loss at BYU.
There are problems on offense as well.
Quarterback David Ash – alarmingly efficient when Texas won 66-31 in Oxford a year ago – is questionable with a head injury, and sophomore running back/receiver Daje Johnson, a key playmaker, is out with a sprained ankle.
The hiring of a new defensive coordinator – Greg Robinson, who held this position previously under Brown – creates a lot of uncertainly for Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze in his game-planning.
“It certainly is an uncomfortable feeling. We already had a shell of a game plan together based on what they had done last year and early this year,” Freeze said. “Greg has been in this a lot of years. I know it will have his flavor to it.”
Robinson last coached at Texas for the 2004 team that went 11-1. He’s been out of coaching since the end of the 2010 season when he led a Michigan defense that lost 52-14 to Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl.
Prior to Michigan, he served as head coach at Syracuse from 2005-2008.
“We’ve watched his stuff from other schools, and it’s quite different from what they were doing,” Freeze said.
The uncertainty makes it difficult for Freeze to know what to tell his players.
“It’s frustrating. We were in meetings when we found out, so we talked about it, and they’ll get a plan of what they want me to look at,” quarterback Bo Wallace said.
While a suspect rushing defense would seem to play into the Rebels’ hands, junior defensive end C.J. Johnson cautions against that type of thinking and says he’d not be shocked to see fast improvement by the Longhorns.
“I don’t think the scheme will change too much,” he said. “We know we’re going into a hostile environment and have to be prepared. This is college football. Anything can happen.”