You know the drill: RCR answered a few of our questions and we answered a few of theirs. Should be a fun game of pinball with two extremely young offensive lines and two secondaries that make you go 'Hmm...'.
1) Ok, we're assuming that Masoli is going to play and this whole injury report thing is just an overblown smokescreen. But still, could you tell us a little more about Masoli and Stanley, and what we might expect to see on the field? (Also, why do you have six quarterbacks listed on your roster?)
My money is on Masoli playing too. Honestly, if he doesn’t, we’re really in trouble.
Jeremiah Masoli provides our team with leadership, and he can make some good things happen. He hasn’t been what he was hyped to be, a quarterback who can really get you out of a jam when nothing is available, but he has had a few good games this season. Our offensive line provides him very little time to watch routes develop, and his quick release is vital to our success. With Masoli in play, we run a good bit of four-wide sets where receivers go in motion to be potential ball carriers. We also run the ball out of the pistol and have had some success with that.
Without Masoli, we go to Nathan Stanley, an entirely different quarterback. Stanley takes away our option looks and forces us to run the traditional offense for which our offensive line really isn’t capable of blocking. We start three freshmen, one sophomore, and one junior on the line. It’s pretty rough. This means that Stanley, a drop-back passer, doesn’t get the time he needs to pass. Because of that (and the aforementioned line) we also cannot run well. To put it bluntly, without Masoli, our offense could be terrible.
If we have six quarterbacks listed on our roster, three are walk-ons, and one (promising junior Randall Mackey) is being redshirted.
2) Now that we're this far along Mr. Nutt's Wild Ride in Oxford, what's the general opinion of him among the RebelBear faithful?
I think that a lot of people really like him. He has had significant success here and is in the midst of a year with young players due to a terrible last class by Ed Orgeron and a terrible first class from Butt himself. A lot of people planned for this year to be bad, but I think opinions could start changing if we lose out.
Another section of our fans have simply grown tired of Nutt. They feel that the team is stagnant and doesn’t appear to be on the up and up. There’s evidence to support this (a lack of significant playmakers), but I think it’s early to conclude that Nutt isn’t trending upward.
And the last section of our fans gave up on Nutt as soon as he lost to Jacksonville State. That was an atrocity.
3) Of all Tennessee's issues of depth and inexperience, our worst situation is likely our secondary, where we can barely run a nickel and really don't even have a dime package. Is Ole Miss well-situated to take advantage of this? If so, which names should we be dreading this Saturday, and what would your expect their stat lines to look like?
I’d say that in theory we could fare quite well against your secondary. WE have shown the ability to spread the ball around this season among 6’7" WR Melvin Harris, 6’1" WR Ja-Mes Logan, 6’2" WR Markeith Summers and RB Brandon Bolden. WR Jesse Grandy has gotten the ball a bit this year as well, but he’s more of a runner. We run a good bit of three and four wide sets. I say "in theory" though because we haven’t exactly PASSED in a lot of those multi-receiver packages. We run out of them a good bit in an effort to spread the field for our backs. I will say though, that this is the matchup about which I’m most excited. If the Rebels are going to win, they’re going to have to have success through the air.
4) As you may have noticed, we've fallen in man-love with our new QB Tyler Bray. Despite putting up a video game first half against Memphis (and, of all fan bases, Ole Miss knows how much value that carries), he's still a freshman. What do you expect Ole Miss to do to try to exploit his inexperience? Would you expect more confusion in the way of blitz packages (for sacks) or pass protection schemes (for interceptions)?
Tyrone Nix’s defenses are built entirely around rushing the passer. I would guess that we’ll blitz him from all over the place in an effort to make him uncomfortable. That being said, this strategy hasn’t worked well for us this year. We lost a lot at defensive end to graduation, and we have had costly injuries to several important ends. This results in difficulty getting pressure on quarterbacks, and with our trouble in the secondary, that has spelled disaster. Our corners can hardly cover receivers for three seconds. When quarterbacks have all day (Cameron Newton could have held one particular ball for about twenty seconds in the pocket), it’s impossible for them to stay on receivers long enough.
Without having a copy of our playbook to prove me right or wrong, I’d postulate that our pass coverage schemes are relatively nonconventional. We mix in a good bit of zone (though it kills us every time), and we haven’t really had success at generating interceptions. Watch out for Charles Sawyer though. As of late, he’s a boom or bust type of guy, and I think that could be trouble for Bray.
5) Tell us about one player (that we normally wouldn't know about) who might make a big impact on the game. The Masolis and Powes of the team don't count; we're looking for a guy that'll make Tennessee fans go, "Who's that?"
Jeff Scott. The freshman Scott has been our change-of-pace back this year. He’s certainly not Dexter McCluster (unfortunately), but he is shifty and fast. Against Auburn, he took our first play from scrimmage eighty yards for the score on a simple sweep play. He’s averaging 7.2 yards per run, but that number is a little deceptive since he hasn’t touched the ball a ton this year and has sprinkled in long runs. If there’s one non-starter who makes a big impact on offense, it’s Scott.
Defensively, I think that not enough can be said about D.T. Shackelford. The linebacker has had to play defensive end a good bit this season, and he’s helping us to overcome some of the pass-rushing issues I mentioned earlier. He hasn’t put up any huge numbers, but there hasn’t been quite as much tiem in the pocket since we moved Shackelford to end.