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October 8, 2013

Notes: Rebels trying to simulate Manziel


Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack meets with the media following Tuesday's practice.

OXFORD, Miss. -- If Ole Miss had a player who could simulate Johnny Manziel, he'd be playing for the Rebels this week and not playing the role of the Heisman Trophy winner in practice.

Of course, there might be no one in all of college football who can do the things the Texas A&M quarterback does on the field, making it quite difficult to paint a realistic picture for a defense preparing to face him on a given Saturday.

Ole Miss, which will entertain the ninth-ranked Aggies on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., is using former Southern Miss quarterback Anthony Alford in the role of Manziel this week.

"Anthony Alford's our best chance," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said of Alford, who is sitting out this season due to the NCAA transfer rules. "He did a good job in the first team period of running around."

Manziel is leading the Southeastern Conference in total offense this season, averaging 441 yards per game. The elusive, ultra-athletic Manziel is ninth in the league in rushing with 78.5 yards per game and is first in passing, averaging 362.5 yards per outing. Only Missouri's James Franklin has been more efficient than Manziel, who has completed 51 of 69 passes for seven touchdowns and just two interceptions.

It's Manziel's unpredictability, however, that is so difficult to prepare for. Freeze said he told Alford at times Tuesday to "just scramble this play and throw it somewhere and see if we've got it guarded. He did a good job. That's as good as we can do. We tell him on some of those snaps just drop back, run around and throw it."

NO HANGOVER FOR REBELS: Freeze said Tuesday he sees no sign of a hangover from consecutive losses to No. 1 Alabama and Auburn.

"If you're going to build a program and you're going to be worth your salt, then you certainly can't have a hangover that causes you to drag around," Freeze said. "I've been always careful to say when expectations don't meet what reality brings you, the result can be frustration. That's why you have to be careful about defining what the process is this early.

"We've got to grow up. Some of these young kids have got to mature. Our quarterbacks have got to make better decisions. We've got to win some one-on-ones. We've got to make catches when they come to us. Those things are part of what we should be frustrated about. We've got to get those things fixed."

ALL THE SMALL THINGS: Ole Miss had performed well deep in opponents' territory the first three weeks of the season, but things bogged down in the red zone against Alabama and Auburn.

The Rebels have had five red zone chances the past two games and scored just one touchdown and one field goal. Ole Miss was 0-for-2 against Alabama and 2-for-3 against Auburn.

"Mistakes, man, the small things," Donte Moncrief said. "Not doing the small things right is what is keeping us out. When you're in the red zone you have to do the small things right if you're going to put up points."

Capitalizing on opportunities will be crucial this weekend against Texas A&M. The Aggies are comfortable in a shootout, and point will have to be plentiful for the Rebels to win. A&M is averaging 49.2 points per game.

"We know what we have to do, put points up in the red zone," Moncrief said.

REBEL RUMBLINGS: Ole Miss will continue to look at Emmanuel McCray at guard this week. McCray, typically one of the Rebels' starting tackles, worked at guard some at Auburn and performed "OK," Freeze said. …Senior guard Patrick Junen has played limited snaps this season and did not play at all at Auburn Saturday. Freeze said Junen "has to decide how motivated he is to come to work every day to get better," adding Junen has had a good week so far and could play some Saturday against Texas A&M. …Freeze said Ole Miss trainers were planning to work C.J. Johnson out after practice and then see how his ankle responds Wednesday morning before deciding how to proceed. …Freeze said defensive tackle Carlton Martin "looked good today" following Tuesday's practice. Martin hasn't played in two weeks. …Running back Jeff Scott has a thigh bruise and was held out Tuesday. He's expected to return to practice Wednesday.


Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze meets with the media following Tuesday's practice.


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