One of the hardest things in coaching is walking away from spring practice happy.
If the offense plays well, the defense has some problems. If the defense plays well, you’re worried the offense isn’t getting it done.
These are worries for every staff in the country, and Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze felt no differently after the Rebels’ defense got the best of his offense in the program’s final spring practice on Saturday.
“I’ll have to watch the film,” Freeze told reporters Saturday. “I’ve tried the last couple of scrimmages to stand back and kind of control whether or not the quarterback had pressure on him or not and manage it. That seems to be the debate that’s ongoing. There were some good things, obviously. I thought the defense stopped the run very well. They gave up too many explosive plays, particularly on third down.
“Offensively, we didn’t win first down, never got into tempo, really. Had some really good, explosive plays. … We were able to put the ball in the end zone in the red zone stuff. Never really threatened in the drives, but it was really because of the defense creating some negative plays or the offense creating some negative plays. That’s the whole staple of our offense. If you create negative plays, you’re probably not going to be very effective. Some of that is a credit to our D-line, and some of it was the offense.”
The Rebels were missing several key players on both sides of the ball throughout the spring, but Freeze still saw positives from those that were out there.
Ole Miss was limited offensively with starting quarterback Chad Kelly and offensive linemen Rod Taylor and Robert Conyers all out Saturday because of injuries.
However, redshirt freshman wide receiver Van Jefferson continued to stand out.
“I thought he just had a really solid spring,” Freeze said. “He understands every day there’s a decision that has to be made that, you know what, I’m going to be intentional to compete today.
“As individuals, that’s the hardest thing for any of us, is to consistently, over and over, have the mental toughness to make the right decisions and get the end result you want. … Van’s wired a little different. He really understands what to do with the time that he has at work. He really stood out.”
Defensively, Freeze named defensive end Marquis Haynes, defensive tackle D.J. Jones, defensive tackle Breeland Speaks and defensive back Myles Hartsfield as standouts.
Consequences coming for Taylor
Offensive lineman Rod Taylor was arrested earlier this week on suspicion of shoplifting, and Freeze said there will be consequences.
“Anytime, if we have a young man that makes a poor decision that gets arrested, there is going to be consequences,” Freeze said. “I have plans that can decide how severe those consequences are based on what you do from this point forward with the poor decision. We all make them. It’s what you do with it after that. … He knows exactly where we’re headed from here. We’ll see what happens. But there are consequences, there will be.”
Youngblood receives big honor
One of the best traditions surrounding Ole Miss football is the Chucky Mullins Courage Award.
The award is given each year to one defensive upperclassman to honor the life of former Rebels defensive back Chucky Mullins, who was paralyzed after making a tackle against Vanderbilt in 1989.
Senior defensive end John Youngblood was the recipient of this year’s award and will wear Mullins’ No. 38 next season.
“This is a great honor,” Youngblood said in a release. “I’m a little numb right now, and I know my teammates were also worthy of this honor. I’m humbled and honored to be wearing Chucky’s number.”
Youngblood is the 26th player to receive the award.