October 12, 2017
Oct. 12, 2017
By Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com
A dip in temperature gifted Ole Miss with crisp, cool practice conditions on Wednesday, something the team savored while aware it is only temporary as the weather is supposed to get hotter as Saturday approaches.
“It was really hot yesterday and cooler today,” head coach Matt Luke said. “I think it is going to be hot again on Saturday. It is going to be a big deal on Saturday it being hotter than it has been for a couple games. I think our depth will be key.”
The Rebels are looking for their first win in over a month after a strenuous road trip came to a close. The message all week has been about building off of the second half at Auburn in which the Rebels outscored the Tigers 20-6. The coaching staff thought it was the best half of the season. But Luke made it clear that’s not why they lace it up every week.
The need to start fast is always paramount, but perhaps even more important this week given the way the last two games have gone for a team that has endured a lot both mentally and physically.
“It is cliche, but you want to start every game fast,” Luke said. “That is what we have to do to win games. You can’t dig yourself a hole and hope for moral victories. That is not why we play. We have to start fast. We have to put together a four-quarter football game and play the way we are capable of playing. That is important for us to do that.”
The defense did a better job of neutralizing Auburn’s running game in the second half, an encouraging sign considering Vanderbilt has one of the best running backs in the SEC in Ralph Webb. Part of that is due to the versatility of Breeland Speaks and his ability to play on both the interior and exterior defensive line.
“He has been very versatile for us,” Luke said. “He has been good. He is a load at four-high. At three technique, he is kind of undersized but when he moves out to that four-high, that is a really good spot for him. We have asked to do a lot of things and he has played with great effort.”
It has allowed Wesley McGriff to mix up the defensive fronts and go bigger in the trenches. Speaks, Josiah Coatney and Benito Jones are bigger guys that eat up blockers, allowing the linebackers to get free a little easier.
“Some of those sets with Josiah, Breeland and Benito together gave us a little bit more punch,” Luke said. ‘They kind of cover up everybody and let the linebackers make some plays. You won’t see that all of the time, but I think that is a good switch for us.”
The team took a hit on the injury front this week. Defensive end Qaadir Sheppard and kicker Gary Wunderlich will not play on Saturday. Wunderlich has been nursing a nagging hamstring injury while Sheppard has been dealing with an ankle issue. Sheppard’s is more serious and Luke said the team is considering surgery among a number of options.
Kickoff on Saturday is set for 2:30 p.m.