The key to an Ole Miss upset at No. 12 Auburn won’t be the size of the playbook but the efficiency of it.
Ole Miss coach Matt Luke believes his players can bounce back from a 66-3 loss at No. 1 Alabama if his staff can help them play faster and with more confidence.
“We didn’t play very fast,” Luke said. “We weren’t sure of ourselves, and we weren’t attacking. The best way for us to get that back is to simplify.”
The bridge between simplicity and player confidence, which coaches equate with quick reactions on the field, has been a common theme since the beginning of spring drills.
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With back-to-back losses after a 2-0 start the goal is increased simplicity, but that means different things on each side of the ball.
Offensive coordinator Phil Longo says it won’t reduce the number of play calls at his disposal but will reduce the number of reads and decisions off those plays. Only quarterback Shea Patterson and the offensive line will be affected, he said.
Scaling back on defense involves all 11 positions and could result in personnel moves, defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said.
Some players who haven’t yet grasped things well enough to get on the field may get a second look.
“If they have a skill set that can help you win you reduce your package even more,” he said. “We’ve got to look at personnel.”
McGriff mentioned junior linebacker Jarrion Street and freshman defensive back C.J. Miller as guys who could get on the field this week.
He also wants to avoid over-simplifying things.
“Do I have enough or did I simplify too much? There’s a balance,” McGriff said. “If we get the production we’re hunting we’ll be happy with the results.”
Injury List: Defensive end Qaadir Sheppard picked up an ankle injury at Alabama but is expected to practice and play this week. Center Sean Rawlings (ankle) played the entire game at Alabama and is dealing with soreness. He’ll be limited in practice this week. Kicker Gary Wunderlich will rest his hamstring.
Rushing drop: Ole Miss was ranked No. 128 out of 129 FBS teams in rushing offense last week. This week the Rebels dropped to No. 129 in spite of a 100-yard rushing effort from Jordan Wilkins at Alabama. Wilkins had 101 yards on 12 carries, but Ole Miss managed just 88 yards as a team after sack yardage was added. Ole Miss is averaging 74.3 rushing yards a game, just behind Eastern Michigan, which is averaging 74.5 yards.
McGriff knows Auburn: McGriff coached the secondary at Auburn last year. For the third-straight game, Ole Miss will face an opponent with which one of its assistant coaches worked in 2016.
“I was just looking at the offensive personnel with some guys at the tight end position, the running back and receiver positions,” he said. “That’s an advantage in game-planning, but there’s not going to be much game-planning this week. We’re going to reduce the package and line up and let them play.
Kick time for Vanderbilt: The Ole Miss-Vanderbilt game in Oxford on Oct. 14 has been set for a 2:30 kickoff and SEC Network television.
Who: Ole Miss vs. Auburn
When: 11 a.m., Saturday
Where: Auburn, Ala.
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 103.1 FM