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Post-Grove Bowl Digestion: Some Thoughts on the Close of Spring Practice

How'd the Rebels look this weekend?


Spring football games are not as informative as perhaps we would want them to be. This is particularly the case if you hold them the way Hugh Freeze has over the past two seasons, with the "game" being nothing more than a series of situational scrimmages. As we saw in this past Saturday's Grove Bowl, the offenses and defenses faced off against each other in settings which mirrored overtime, third-and-long situations, goalline stands, etc., with either the offense or defense earning a single point if they won.

The final score was something like 15 for the offense and 12 for the defense, a tally which is pretty meaningless. Also meaningless are the statistics in a contest such as this (which you can find here). What's not so meaningless, however, are my opinions and observations, especially when typed out somewhat stream of consciousness-esque while watching the Grove Bowl replay on ESPN3.

Those such observations are as follows:
  • I don't know anything about punting regardless of style, so I can't say for sure whether or not Will Gleeson's punting is worth a damn. Regardless, if he does win the starting punting jobs, which we believe he will, his rugby-style kicking should be interesting enough to watch.
  • I do know that we still can't field punts, which is frustrating and stupid.
  • Bo Wallace's release is still slow, while both DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan get the ball out with better zip. Bo's strength is certainly better now than what it was towards the end of last season, but he'll definitely need more work on his shoulder.
  • Even then, he has better touch on the deep ball than anybody else.
  • DeVante Kincade has good legs and good enough elusiveness to be a part of the conversation for the future. I'd like to see more of him before I anoint him anything, but he made some great plays on the day, including a busted play which turned into a rollout first down.
  • I still don't think, however, that he is clearly the second quarterback in this depth chart. Buchanan had his moments too that turned some heads.
  • The starting offensive line isn't bad, but it isn't particularly good either. They need Fahn Cooper and Rod Taylor to get in right away and add depth this fall.
  • Laquon Treadwell's only truly bad play was a fumble which was forced by Cody Prewitt. If you're going to fumble, at least make it against an all-American safety.
  • Same goes for Evan Engram. Don't fumble bro, but if you do so against Cody Prewitt then, well, what are we gonna do?
  • Mark Dodson has great vision and uses his lower center of gravity very well to move into space. He had a few plays on jailbreak screens which were very impressive. He shows a completeness that no other back does at this point. Jordan Wilkins and iTavius Mathers are powerful, strong runners, but neither proved themselves to be the receiving threat that Dodson is.
  • All three of those guys will get enough playing time this year, I feel.
  • In the Spring, the defense is supposed to be way ahead of the offense, but I'll be damned if this first string D isn't the best the Rebs have fielded since 2008. They are leaner than a lot of SEC defenses, but they're incredibly athletic and swarm like fireants to the football.
  • I'Tavius Mathers is gonna get a lot of time on the field this year. He's big and fast enough to play a lot of football in the Southeastern Conference. As mentioned earlier, he doesn't have the hands he should for this Rebel offense, considering how important swings and screens are for Hugh Freeze's scheme, but he gets to the second level and turns a lot of plays into footraces.
  • Kendrick Doss is big and athletic but he's still a redshirt candidate as a quarterback. Best exemplifying this was his having a great run for a first down, only to get sacked due to poor decision making one play later. He made a few pretty impressive throws but doesn't have nearly the quick throwing motion of everybody not named Bo Wallace on the quarterback depth chart.
  • On one play, Doss was chased down by Marquise Haynes, the first of many plays that showed Haynes' rare speed at the rush end spot. He is not big enough to be anything more than a situational rusher or special teams player in the SEC, but the reports of him being able to beat blockers on his speed alone are true.
  • Jeremy Liggins is , as expected, a handful. I don't want him throwing the ball in an SEC contest, but hot damn is he a load to to bring down. It's completely inhuman for someone his size to move as well as he does in and out of spaces which the laws of physics will allow him to exist in.
  • Senquez Golson and Derrick Jones are as good a pair of starting cornerbacks as Ole Miss has had since Cassius Vaughn and Marshay Green. What makes this duo more exciting though is Derrick Jones' height and length. He has the physical tools to keep up with big receivers, something which a starting Ole Miss cornerback hasn't had since, uh, ever?
  • While all eyes were on Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core, Collins Moore, and even John Ratliff were surprisingly capable. Core, in particular, looked the part of an SEC-ready guy. I am sure he will be a part of the mix outside.
  • Mike Hilton looked pretty solid overall. He had a tackle on Mark Dodson which was just gnarly. I'm excited for his potential as this defense's third cornerback (for the time being).
  • The defensive line is incredibly athletic. It's easy to say that they were taking advantage of a thin offensive line (because they were) but Fadol Brown, Issac Gross, and Robert Nkemdiche are all outstandingly quick for their size.

And then I sorta lost interest after watching Jeremy Liggins drag third-string defenders around for an hour.

The Grove Bowl did exactly what other spring games do, and that's chiefly entertain fans while keeping football players in decent shape. It's not as if any major question marks were answered by spring ball, nor was there any sort of big depth chart shakeup as a result of the past month of drills - neither would really be to the point of spring football. That said, it was excellent to see so many players recovering from last season's injuries, as well as watch a few newcomers getting their feet wet as members of a Southeastern Conference football program. And there were, admittedly, a few things that Rebel fans could be newly excited for as a result of watching this past weekend's festivities.

So, here's to the next five, football-free months!

(Oh, and of course, please share your thoughts on the Grove Bowl below. Feel free to tell me where I went wrong, or supplement my ruminations with your own.)