[DISCLAIMER: It's Spring! Calm down already! As much as we all want football season to be here already, we talkin' bout PRACTICE, man.]
Now that that's outta the way, let's begin. I, along with many other Rebel fans in and around Oxford, went to the Vaught this past weekend to take in the first open scrimmage of the spring. I'll go ahead and tell you that I mainly watched (like most fans) the offense in action with a particular eye on the backup QB position. Sure, I've got some other notes and will offer my two cents worth, but most of us are interested in the juicy scoop surrounding the most important position in the game so that's what I'm here to deliver. All offseason, there have been rumors floating around about Bo's limited ability, Kincade's superior understanding of hurry-up offenses, Jeremy Liggins' belt size, and so much more. I guess it's not Ole Miss spring football without a lot of second guessing and speculation about the future of our signal callers.
I'll go in order by snaps taken during the spring practice.
Bo Wallace is leading the depth chart at the QB position. Hold your gratitude for that Captain Obvious statement, because there's more to it than that. There were a couple things I noticed with Bo's snaps that lead me to think that he is continuing develop and could, dare I say it, be one of the best starting QBs in the SEC next season. (BO KNOWS HEISMAN LOL AMIRITE???) The biggest take away I had from Bo was that the play calling while he was taking snaps were dominantly touch passes, specifically in deeper, over-the-shoulder reception situations. In his first pass from the full squad scrimmage, Bo threw a floater to Evan Engram which hit him in stride, resulting in a 65 yard TD. Granted, there was probably some blown coverage in there, but that could be that Engram was lined up in a receiver position out wide, no where close to the O-line as his tight end role would suggest.
So Engram created a mismatch, and Bo put it out there where only he could get it. It was nice.
On the day, I'd say Bo threw around 5-7 of these lob/touch passes, some deep, some short, completing about 50% of them. Fortunately, all of the incompletions balls were overthrown and not right into the arms of an anxious defender. Perhaps that leads to picks against safeties in the real world, but if he is going to miss I'd rather have it be in that fashion given the height advantage our receivers will more than likely have against any man coverage we face. I can see these passes being a nice weapon for us along with the dinks, dunks, slants and screens we're accustomed to seeing out of Wallace.
Of all the quarterbacks, he looked the most well rounded, confident, and in command. If you are one of those people that think Bo shouldn't be our starting quarterback, please talk to anyone that has seen the competition this Spring in person. They will slap you silly.
DeVante Kincade is, in my view, leagues ahead of the other back up QBs. In his short end zone skeleton drill, Switchblade was slinging darts to his receivers, completing three-of-four for a touchdown, all of which were fairly tight throws into coverage. During the full squad snaps, Kincade shined on throwing quick balls to WRs on dig and out routes, specifically Quadarius "Q-Ricky" Mireles. Some of the passes were beautifully placed even while Kincade scrambled out of the pocket.
Speaking of scrambling, the other thing that particularly impressed me about Kincade was his patience in the pocket and lack of an inclination to run, despite his speed and athleticism. I can definitely see Kincade filling in the short yardage, red zone role of the now departed Barry Brunetti. He seems to show the ability to place balls with pinpoint precision and has the arm strength to get the ball there very quickly. In that sense, he's better than Brunetti, but regarding his size and ability to get a push in short-yardage rushing situations, he's nowhere close.
Speaking of size, though...
Jeremy "BIG LIG" Liggins is a big dude...like, thighs bigger than my waist big. No offense to bigger people (Mississip' ain't short on them) but, generally speaking, if your belly protrudes past your chest then you probably shouldn't be playing a skilled position in an offense. Nevertheless, the Big Lig jiggled his way out to the field for a couple snaps. I mean, I don't really know what else to add here other than the fact that I'm glad someone as athletic as him is on our roster, but unless he improves significantly before the season starts he won't (and shouldn't) ever take a snap at the quarterback position in an Ole Miss uniform during a real game. He's got a strong arm and moves way quicker than a man his size should, but that's all I've got.
Ryan Buchanan did not see a lot of snaps. The few snaps he got called for quick swing passes to backs in the flat, some of which were pretty bad incompletions. The thing that worried me most was the fact while he is considered to be more of a "pocket passer" QB, his sense of presence in the pocket was shaky at best. Granted, he was probably working with the 3rd string O-line - assuming we have one - but with his height advantage over the other back up quarterbacks, you'd expect him to really stand up and into the pocket and wait for a receiver to get open.
Aside from the QBs, the other interesting offensive aspect to watch was Channing Ward at the tight end position. I think he still must be struggling to learn some of the packages because at one point he completely whiffed on a block he was supposed to place on a bubble screen pass. At another point though, he mad a sick one-handed grab while running a shallow crossing route for a first down. I am very intrigued to see our formations for upcoming season, especially with heavy tight end packages. Ward, Engram and Sammie Epps all have big frames and great hands.
Receiver wise, Laquon Treadwell and Quincy Adeboyejo had a couple shining moments but nothing that screams out at me. Quincy did beat Tony Connor on a route to leave him wide open for a TD from Bo towards the end of the scrimmage, while Treadwell had a climb-the-ladder catch in the back corner of the end zone. They will both be featured heavily in this offense this year, and with good reason. It's pretty nice to have a WR corps that is so great when plays like this almost seem run of the mill.
So, that's what I saw this weekend out of the offense. If you were at the scrimmage as well, and there's something you'd like to add, particularly your thoughts on the Rebel defense, then do so in the comments section below.