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April 6, 2013

Offense fights back during Saturday scrimmage

OXFORD, Miss. -- The defense dominated during team drills on Friday, but Saturday inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, the Ole Miss offense found some footing and excelled during the second full-squad spring scrimmage.

With Barry Brunetti and Maikhail Miller handling most of the offensive snaps, the Rebels gained traction with quarterback runs. It's a dangerous decision with starting quarterback Bo Wallace out for the spring, but head coach Hugh Freeze thought the pros outweighed the cons.

"It gives you an accurate representation of who we are," Freeze said. "There are times in practice where we run one of those, and the quarterback keeps it, but we blow it pretty quick. You have no clue if he got none, one or 10. It's always a risk, but I've always done that if we have two or three guys toward the end of spring. Don't do it in the fall, but in the spring you can. Also I had a feeling it would make us more successful."

While there were missed opportunities, Freeze was pleased with the offense's game management. He's always talked of staying on schedule in relation to down and distance, and Saturday was fairly successful at that.

"Most of the time it was good," Freeze said. "And even on others if the receiver puts his foot in the ground or the quarterback puts his foot in the ground and goes forward, you stay in really manageable down-and-distance calls. We have to get that fixed. We have to know the situations.

"Even when we went to the drives the offense performed well and made some plays, had some chances at more plays but had some drops that were probably touchdowns. We had a couple blown protections with people open down to the field."

The offensive role reversal was a pleasant sight, especially with all the absences. Both side are affected by injuries, but the majority are on the offensive side of things. In addition to Wallace, Donte Moncrief (shoulder), DJ. Bailey, Aaron Morris, Korvic Neat and Patrick Junen are out or limited. Christian Morgan also injured his knee and will have an MRI on Monday.

Defensively, Issac Gross tweaked his groin on Friday, Carlton Martin is limited, and Dehendret Collins missed time.

"I can't afford to worry about that, it's a concern not having (Wallace), Aaron Morris, Korvic Neat, Donte Moncrief, (Patrick) Junen, on and on, but it's not something I dwell on."

Mark Dodson is also playing through a moderate ankle injury. He had close to 10 carries to Saturday.

Freshmen quarterbacks Devante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan will join the group in June, and Freeze just wants more competition -- and not just at quarterback.

"If they get here in June and watch cut ups, I think they are now," Freeze said. "I hope they compete and develop and make this a much more competitive room. Let's separate who the best are. That's what SEC football is at any campus you go to, and we don't have the depth in those rooms to do that consistently. We hope to do that in recruiting though."

But for now Freeze is content with both sides responding after tough days. Now it's the defense's turn with one week left before the Grove Bowl.

"No question the (offense) had the passion and determination to do things that were positive today. We finished some drives. It was offensive-friendly field possession early in it, but those are situations you have to work on and respond to.

"I was proud of the offensive staff and how those guys responded to yesterday's offensive beat down. It's good to go back and forth. It's what good teams do. I know the defense will respond and won't be happy with today."


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