Happy Thursday and welcome to the Ole Miss Wake-Up Call, the article designed to give you everything you need to know in the world of Ole Miss sports in what I hope is a fun, informative and entertaining way.
The Ole Miss receiving corps has turned a lot of heads in the first four games this season. Damore’ea Stringfellow, Van Jefferson and A.J. Brown are the wide receivers with the most catches, but DaMarkus Lodge, Quincy Adeboyejo and Markell Pack are almost every bit as dangerous. All of them are 6-foot-2 or more and can go up and snatch the ball in SportsCenter-highlight fashion. When Ole Miss goes five wide, it’s anybody’s guess which one should draw the most attention.
— CFBonESPNRadio (@CFBonESPNRadio) September 24, 2016
“We’ve worked really hard in recruiting to get the type of receiver that I like to coach,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said on this week’s SEC Coaches Teleconference. “I do think that their ability, when you spread the field with them, they can win in a lot of one-on-one situations, because of their size and speed, so I think it does make us more difficult than maybe in the past.”
There’s no doubt that the Ole Miss wide receivers put immense pressure on safeties to help the usually much shorter cornerbacks in coverage, but there’s a cost that comes with that, and his name is Evan Engram, the most productive tight end in the nation and the Rebels’ leading receiver.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) September 28, 2016
It’s almost not fair.
Engram and the Rebel wide receivers put defenses in a real dilemma. Engram leads the team in receiving in large part because defenses are otherwise occupied trying to cover the dangerous wide receivers.
“If you want to double him inside, then there are some people outside that are in one-on-one situations,” Freeze said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “You’ve got to feel really good about that, when String (Stringfellow) and Lodge and Van and (Markell) Pack and Quincy (Adeboyejo) and those other guys. You’ve got to decide and I think that Evan benefits from that.”
The best defensive strategy against Ole Miss is keep the offense off the field.
Ole Miss' offense ranks near the top of the SEC in so many categories that they wouldn't fit in a tweet if they were listed pic.twitter.com/Xjhw8bHzNb
— Dylan Edwards (@DylanEdwards77) September 27, 2016
How Freeze puts the plan together
In a surprising move for a former offensive coordinator whose reputation was once that of being a play-calling wizard, Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn announced on Tuesday that he is relinquishing his play-calling duties to focus on being a head coach.
“Sometimes reality hits you,” Malzahn told AL.com. “In this day and time in this league, to be the head coach and call an offense is not realistic, at least for me.”
This somewhat surprising news led reporters on the weekly SEC Coaches Teleconference to ask Hugh Freeze how he balances being a head coach with play-calling duties. In his typical “awe shucks” fashion, Freeze said that the key for him is to not over-think it.
“Gus is a lot smarter than I am and very analytical,” Freeze said. “I’m more of a gut guy. I make my call sheet out as I’m riding on the bus to the stadium, and it’s based on what my gut says about how somebody is going to play us. And a lot of times my gut is pretty good with that.”
Freeze’s gut has been saying good things on the bus ride to the stadium this year. The Rebels have scored on every first drive of the season.
Freeze said if the team gets out of his preferred tempo, he relies on offensive line coach Matt Luke and co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner to make the play calls, but as long as the Rebels are in tempo or the red zone, Freeze is the one calling the shots.
Get Cam Akers
If there’s anything Ole Miss could use to make its offense absolutely unstoppable, it’s a transcendent 5-star running back like Clinton, Miss., prospect Cam Akers. Watch this guy run…
— The Opening (@TheOpening) September 26, 2016
Akers will be able to name the school of his choice when he’s ready, but Ole Miss wants him really, really badly, and the Rebels definitely need reinforcements in the backfield.
Watch The Season
The Georgia edition of “The Season” debuted on Wednesday night. “The Season” is the best school-produced broadcast in college football. It has to be. It’s just so well done, and the behind-closed-doors access is phenomenal. There’s no better way to go inside Ole Miss football than to watch this 30-minute show each week. If you’ve never taken the time to watch before, start with this great episode that includes the story of running back Akeem Judd and that big win over Georgia.
Memphis by the numbers
The Memphis Tigers visit Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday (6 p.m., ESPN2 or ESPN Alternate).
The Rebels and the Tigers have very similar numbers, but keep in mind as you look at the averages that Ole Miss has played Alabama, Florida State and Georgia while Memphis has faced Southeast Missouri State, Kansas and Bowling Green. It’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison.
Ole Miss – 326.5 yards per game
Memphis – 293 yards per game
Ole Miss – 131 yards per game
Memphis – 181 yards per game
Ole Miss – 458 yards per game
Memphis – 478 yards per game
Yards Allowed by Defense
Ole Miss – 447 yards per game
Memphis – 297 yards per game
These guys are big
Ole Miss basketball season will be here before you know it. The Rebels open against Tennessee-Martin on Nov. 11. I thought you might enjoy this team picture. Notice anything different? I’ll give you a hint: Remember back when Sebastian Saiz was one of the tallest guys on the team? Those days are over.
— OleMissPix (@OleMissPix) September 21, 2016
Saiz doesn’t look very big next to the two new guys in the back. The 7-foot center’s name is Dominik Olejniczak, and joining him is 6-foot-10 forward Karlis Silins. Both players are freshmen from Europe, and both will be welcome additions in the Pavilion paint come November.
Rebel breakfast bites
- Three Rebels made ESPN’s list of the Top 50 players. Can you guess which ones? (ESPN)
- SEC head coaches talk about balancing head coach duties with play-calling. (AL.com)
- The Ole Miss secondary is growing up fast. (SB Nation)
- Hugh Freeze was frustrated with his coaches and his players after practice on Wednesday. (Clarion Ledger)
- Ole Miss receivers are tough to contain. (Oxford Eagle)