Ole Miss defensive lineman Josiah Coatney chats about his offseason procedure and getting healthy for the Rebels this spring practice. Nick Suss, The Clarion-Ledger
OXFORD — The Ole Miss football team held its first large-scale scrimmage session on Saturday, a session that Rebels coach Matt Luke seemed to come out of impressed.
"I thought there were some good things in the run game, so I really liked to see that," Luke said Tuesday. "Defense had an interception for a touchdown, so that was good to see. They got a couple of turnovers so that was good to see. And they didn’t really give up the big play in the pass game; they stayed on top and did some good things there. Their alignment was good. Just their leverage and understanding where their help was. That comes with playing. You can tell that we’ve got some guys out there that have played some."
As of Tuesday, Ole Miss is nine practices into its 2019 spring practice session, one where the Rebels have had to install new offenses and defenses under first-year coordinators Mike MacIntyre and Rich Rodriguez. Luke said he’s pleased with how installation has gone and thinks his players are getting to a point where they’re reacting instead of thinking, a major step toward comfort in a new system.
Coming out of the scrimmage, Luke said he thinks his players need to fine-tune some of their situational skills. That’s why Ole Miss spent a chunk of Tuesday’s practice focusing on third downs and two-minute drills to clean up some of the "little things" that Luke said he felt his team needs to get right.
As for some of the players who stood out in the scrimmage, Luke first pointed to junior college outside linebacker transfer Sam Williams, who returned an interception for a touchdown. Luke also shouted out defensive linemen Qaadir Sheppard and Austrian Robinson as well as senior offensive lineman Mike Howard. And, on top of that, Luke described senior running back Scottie Phillips’ day as "solid" and said sophomore running back Tylan Knight "flashed" with some explosive runs.
One of the major talking points out of the scrimmage, and for the spring as a whole, relates to the defense’s ability to prevent big plays. Last season, Ole Miss’ defense allowed 206 plays where the offense gained 10 yards or more from scrimmage. Among FBS teams that played 12 games as Ole Miss did, only Illinois, Oregon State and Connecticut allowed more.
That’s why sophomore linebacker Jacquez Jones said MacIntyre preached responsibility and discipline to prevent such plays in the scrimmage.
"Going into the scrimmage, we wanted to eliminate the run and big plays," Jones said. "So coach MacIntyre, he drilled us going into it. That’s what we tried to prevent. We had a few big plays where we just fit in the wrong gaps, but other than that I think we’ve been good."
Ole Miss has another week of practice leading into the Grove Bowl on April 6 at 3 p.m. in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Are you looking for as much news on Ole Miss sports as possible? Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or firstname.lastname@example.org for the inside scoop. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.