Ole Miss fans’ first chance to see the Rebel football team this season didn’t leave many fans — or coach Ed Orgeron — with a good taste in their mouths about the team’s ongoing quarterback battle.
In a scrimmage that began outside at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and had to be moved inside to the IPF after lightning moved into the area, the defense dominated for most of the day.
And none of the four players competing for quarterback — Seth Adams, Michael Herrick, Brent Schaeffer or Billy Tapp — looked overly impressive.
“It is a little disappointing that we are not further along with our quarterback,” Orgeron said. “That is what we have. We are going to continue to get better and hopefully we can find a guy that is going to be consistent.”
Things did get better in the second half, something Orgeron noted. Adams, who had the best day of the four, led the Rebels on three late touchdown drives, including a pair of touchdown passes.
“I was really pleased to see the offense at halftime get it together a little bit and come in have Seth move the offense down the field a little bit and score,” Orgeron said.
“You know, if you go out and perform like we did in the first half, you dig yourself a hole. We’re not that good of a team. We can’t afford with the schedule we have and the teams that we play to go out and dig ourselves a hole.”
Adams better during second half
Adams completed 14 of 26 passes for 120 yards, after starting 0-for-4. His two touchdown passes were 10-and 5-yard strikes to Greg Hardy on fade patterns on which Hardy reached up above multiple defenders to grab the ball. Most of Adams’ completions were short — 10 of them went for 10 yards or fewer — and many went to Dexter McCluster, who had six catches for 64 yards.
Herrick completed four of 10 for 39 yards, and Schaeffer connected on two of 6 for 40 yards and one score.
Orgeron said the offense would be “two, three, two, three, pop (a big play)” and there were big plays by the offense scattered throughout the scrimmage.
There was Schaeffer rolling out of the pocket and hitting Markeith Summers in stride for a 37-yard touchdown pass. Marshay Green juked several defenders — including a sudden stop at the 10-yard line — on a 25-yard touchdown run on a reverse. Running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bruce Hall and Derrick Davis all had carries that went for over 10 yards.
Green-Ellis carried 14 times for 56 yards, and Hall led the way with 10 carries for 71 yards. Cordera Eason had 11 rushes for 38 yards.
“We have some big play guys back there,” Orgeron said. “You look at BenJarvus, look at Bruce, look at Cordera, those guys just keep on pounding. When we get our offensive line back together, we’re going to get in better sync and we’re going to have bigger plays from our backs.”
The Rebel offense was missing center Cory Actis, right guard John Jerry and left guard Reid Neely, as well as tight end Robert Lane and receiver Shay Hodge. Orgeron said that missing those players — whom he said should all be ready for Ole Miss’ Sept. 1 season opener against Memphis — did hurt the offense’s production. He also said that the drop-off from first team to second team offensive line is “night and day.”
“There is so much of a drop off,” Orgeron said. “That is the biggest dropoff on our team from first team offensive line to second team offensive line.”
The defense was also missing several players, including defensive ends Kentrell Lockett and Chris Bowers and linebackers Jonathan Cornell and Allen Walker, but looked especially impressive up front.
Linemen Jerrell Powe, Peria Jerry, Daverin Geralds and Marcus Tillman all contributed to quarterback sacks, as did linebacker Jamie Phillips.
Orgeron was pleased with the play of Powe, whose improving conditioning allowed him to be on the field longer Saturday.
“We’re giving him as much as he can handle,” Orgeron said. “I think it helped a lot that we were indoors and the conditions weren’t as much as they would be outside, but he is getting better and is loosing weight and he played probably his best day. You could see at times that he can be a force.”
Palmer shines in scrimmage
Another defensive player who stood out was linebacker Ashlee Palmer, who had several big hits.
“He was all over the field, and he really used his speed,” Orgeron said. “He played with tenacity, and by far, it was his best day.”
True freshman safety Johnny Brown was back on the field too, one day after he was officially cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse.
Ole Miss began the scrimmage by doing special teams work, something they were hampered from doing much of once things moved inside.
In fact, quarterback Jevan Snead, who is ineligible this season after transferring from Texas in the off-season, served as the kick-off guy, throwing the ball down field to the returner.
Orgeron was later asked if he’d like to see a rule changed to allow Snead, who also threw a 22-yard touchdown pass in his short action, to throw the ball on kickoffs all season.
The coach asked for something else.
“If they change the rule, let him play (quarterback) this year,” Orgeron said. “That is the rule I want. If we are going to change the rule, let’s go for it.”