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How Ole Miss uses John Rhys Plumlee in the run game

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A look at what Rich Rod is cooking up with our fleet-footed son.

Mississippi v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As Ole Miss prepares to lock horns with Vanderbilt in a rare non-Jefferson Pilot setting, questions are swirling, as they often do, about who will start at quarterback for the Rebels. Matt Luke and Rich Rodriguez have both said some version of “you’ll find out when the offense takes the field”, followed by the slyest of grins.

No matter who starts, Luke and Rodriguez said that Plumlee will play, mainly because he brings the element of being a dynamic runner in an offense that wants to run the dang ball a lot. Corral can be an effective runner, but Plumlee possesses absurd speed, which, as they like to say, YOU CAN’T TEACH THAT, BOB.

Because of his speed, Plumlee has a chance to punish defenses on designed run plays for the quarterback, as well as any zone reads. To survey the potential damage, let’s take a look at some ways Rich Rod is letting Plumlee cook.

We begin with the first play of Plumlee’s college career, which was your basic 47-yard run to bring life back to a dead-in-the-water Ole Miss team. If you recall, Ole Miss faced a third and 10 at its own 38-yard line.

Rodriguez sent Plumlee in for the injured Corral and called quarterback draw, figuring he could get yardage to make fourth down more manageable or BUST IT DAGGUM WIDE OPEN.

Ole Miss sets up with trips to the left, overloading that side of the field.

To clear out the middle of the field and a pesky linebacker, Jerrion Ealy goes in motion to create the space.

Now all that’s left is for the left side of the line and right guard Ben Brown to pin their guys inside, leaving Alex Givens to win a one-on-one matchup with the outside linebacker and pave the way for Plumlee.

We move on to Ole Miss’ second possession of the game against Alabama. Ole Miss lines up with two receivers to both sides of the field and a running back keeping Plumlee company.

The play calls for a fake toss to the running back, while Brown and Givens (right guard and right tackle, respectively) pull, giving Plumlee two lead blockers on a power run play. The slot receivers also block, while the outside receivers go vertical.

When Plumlee starts heading DOWNHILL, three Alabama defenders have been slowed by the fake toss to the running back and are now out of the play.

If Elijah Moore holds his block in the slot, this is going to be a big gain.

Here, we see what separates Plumlee as a runner from Corral. It’s likely Corral is tackled here for a minimal gain. However, because Plumlee is fast and shifty, he’s able to make a guy miss and outrun the other defenders to pick up a first down.

Note: Later this season, Ole Miss is absolutely going to run that play again but after faking the toss and instead of running, the quarterback will throw it over the top, similar to the time SWAG Kelly did the same to Evan Engram against Alabama.

On the very next play, Rich Rod goes back to the well of Plumlee’s speed. Ole Miss has a numbers advantage to the right side but also throws in a little deception before sprinting to the edge.

Once again, the blocking on the edge falls apart, but Plumlee is still able to pick up six yards out of this.

Finally, we get deeper into the red zone, a place where Ole Miss has, in the words of our sweaty, soggy president, been very perfect and fine and stable and looked really, really great. Many people are talking about how great they’ve looked. We’ve heard them talking about the greatness. Big, wide, beautiful greatness.

We pick things up on third down, when Ole Miss lines up in the same formation it used on second down. On that previous play, Rodriguez called an inside zone read, which Plumlee gave to Scottie Phillips for a gain of one.

For his next call, it doesn’t appear as though Rodriguez had any intention of letting a running back have the ball. He calls for Plumlee to fake* the handoff with Snoop Conner and follow Scottie Phillips and tight end Jason Pellerin, who comes across the formation with an arc block.

*Could be very wrong, but it looked like Plumlee didn’t make a read.

If you recall, that play went okay!

If that play was run in a short-yardage situation in another area of the field, we’re looking at a significant gain, even with a safety having some depth.

Again, it’s not that Matt Corral can’t run these plays, but that Plumlee has the ability to make them more explosive and effective, especially if the blocking breaks down and he turns into — NFL announcer who loves Brett Favre voice - JUST A KID OUT THERE TRYING TO MAKE A PLAY.

Rich Rod will likely add more wrinkles as the season progresses, which could create even more problems for defenses and perhaps help Plumlee become a more effective passer.