Explosive Rebel Offense Ready for Regions Bank Grove Bowl
April 6, 2017

By Dylan Edwards, OleMissSports.com

Oxford, Miss. - With the Regions Bank Grove Bowl on Saturday, spring football has nearly run its course for Ole Miss. Ole Miss' offense spent the early portions of spring becoming accustomed to new offensive coordinator Phil Longo's system, but now it's nearly time to unleash it for fans to see. There's one word that comes up regularly when asked to describe it: explosive.

"(Fans can expect) a lot of big plays," sophomore receiver A.J. Brown said. "With Coach Longo's offense, you can see explosive plays coming really soon."

What's telling about Longo's offense is how it's described considering the effectiveness of the Rebels' offense last season. Success on the offensive side of the ball is nothing new. Ole Miss' offense last year moved quickly, was effective, and was always close to breaking a big play. This year, it seems like it will be an even bigger monster for defenses.

"Coach Longo is a tempo type of guy," offensive tackle Greg Little said. "We've had a ton of explosive plays in the run game and the passing game this spring."

One main reason Longo was brought in was to retool the running game to give the offense a more varied attack. One difference that will be noticeable is the offensive line will have slightly wider splits to help open up running lanes for the backs.

"It helps the running backs have more space and bigger holes because of the natural splits," Little said. "If we're already wide, we don't have to widen the hole out. The splits help the running game a lot."

Of course, those splits directly tie into the passing game as well. It makes those athletic defensive ends Ole Miss will face have to cover that much more ground to get to sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson.

"At first, I was a little worried about it because it's a lot of space," Little said. "Even if I miss after my first punch, he's so wide that he might not get there."

Little has also transformed his body in the offseason to help thrive in Longo's tempo and space-oriented offense. He's dropped 20 pounds from last season and has gotten stronger.

"This offseason was a really big offseason for me, getting stronger and in shape with a better body," Little said. "I definitely move much better. I've noticed in film, I'm moving a lot faster."

It's easy to see how improvement in the running game coupled with extra time for Patterson can lead to explosive plays given the talent of Ole Miss' receivers. More than that, they don't rest on their talent alone. They put in the work.

"Potential doesn't mean anything, but we have a lot of talent in the room," Brown said. "We can make plays, run routes, and do the small things. We put in the extra work. When no one is watching, we're coming in and working."

That receiver room also has the added benefit of a healthy D.K. Metcalf. Before a broken foot ended his season early last year, he had already shown he's a matchup nightmare in the end zone. The impressive thing about him - and really the entire position group - is how that in no way makes him complacent.

"Everyone knows I can catch a fade," Metcalf said. "It's really me taking my game to the next level with the curls, comebacks, slants, digs. I'm trying to get my center of gravity low coming out of breaks."

All four of those sophomores - Brown, Little, Brown, and Patterson - looked like they more than belonged on the field last year as true freshmen. That was with them adjusted to the speed of the game on the fly. Now, they've gotten comfortable and adjusted to the college game as their second season draws nearer.

 

 

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