Thursday, April 26, 2012
Hugh Freeze not satisfied with O-line
By Edward Aschoff
If new Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is going to get his spread offense off the ground in Oxford, he's going to have to see a lot of positive changes from his offensive line.
What entered the spring as the Rebels' most experienced unit left as arguably its weakest, as it struggled to transition to Freeze's new offense.
"The tempo of which we want to do it with caused some problems and we still have a ways to go in that adjustment period," Freeze said of his offensive line Tuesday.
Randall Mackey was a bright spot this spring for Ole Miss, contributing at quarterback, running back and as a receiver.
Ole Miss lost potential first-round pick Bobby Massie and three-year starter Bradley Sowell before spring, but watched as its returning starters struggled throughout the 15 spring practices.
Guard Matt Hall, who started 11 games at right guard last season, was missing for the first part of the spring before he eventually left the team. Fellow guard Patrick Junen, who started six games at left guard, ran with the first team at times, but continued to struggle picking up Freeze's offense throughout spring.
Rising senior A.J. Hawkins, who played in and started five games at center last year, took reps at guard, while rising junior center Evan Swindall (seven starts) was able to stay at his past position and might have been the Rebels' most consistent lineman.
Rising sophomore Aaron Morris (five starts) shined at times, while the tackle spots were filled by redshirt junior Emmanuel McCray, who missed all of last season but played in 12 games in 2010, and junior college transfer Pierce Burton.
There were bright spots here and there, but overall, Ole Miss' offensive line didn't excel. There are a lot of career games along the front five, but it'll take more than experience to get this group going before the season starts.
While Freeze was down on his offensive line, he was impressed by a couple of skill players this spring. Freeze said rising junior wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan had "the most consistent spring at wide receiver." Logan only caught 20 passes for 274 yards and zero touchdowns last season, but he's a big body who the staff hopes can be used as a deep threat in this offense.
He caught three passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game.
Freeze was also pleased with how Randall Mackey performed, even with all the moving around he did. After being a starting quarterback for the Rebels last season, Mackey moved to wide receiver. As one of Ole Miss' best pure athletes, he took reps in the slot, as a wildcat quarterback and as a running back.
In Ole Miss' spring game, Mackey completed two passes -- both touchdowns -- for 44 yards, caught a pass for 4 yards, and carried the ball twice for 16 yards.
"He's a talented kid," Freeze said, "and I expect him to give us an added boost to the offense from playing all the many positions that he'll play."