Tomorrow at noon, Ole Miss fans around the world will get the opportunity to see next season’s football team take the field. Sure, overanalyzing a spring game is ridiculous, given the vanilla sets the team runs and uncertainty at a lot of positions. Critiquing the play itself all that much, which we’ll definitely be guilty of doing, is a little fruitless. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing a spring game can teach a viewer though.
Namely, a spring game gives us a look at a depth chart as of tomorrow, which is obviously written in sand but still, at the very least, written. This football coaching staff isn’t one to put guys in the starting unit just because they’re good dudes who practice hard. Whoever takes the field first tomorrow is leading the race to start on September 3rd against Troy.
On top of that, we get to see some raw skills on display. Who is fast? Who is slow? Which quarterbacks might be gelling best with which receivers? Here’s a list of a few things we’ll be following.
Yeah, I don’t think there’s all that much to say. We’ve heard it really is a neck-and-neck battle. Who takes the field first? Will it be the steady Luke Altmyer or the all gas no brakes Jaxson Dart? The path to each of them winning the job is clear: Altmyer can win if his pre-existing grasp of the offense keeps him ahead. Dart can win if his arm talent surpasses the flaws of his ill-advised throws. Who it will be is anyone’s guess.
Does Ole Miss really have four legitimate running backs?
Obviously most fans expect Zach Evans to carry the lions’ share of the touches, but in practice reports we’ve seen strong days from Kentrel Bullock, Ulysses Bentley IV, and Quinshon Judkins. Each seems to be getting reps with the ones at various times. I don’t imagine that’s all that sustainable, so does the spring game start to show how the coaches really view the rotation? I personally wasn’t a huge fan of Judkins’ film out of high school, but I know many people who I assume are better evaluators than I am rave about him. If Bullock keeps a lead on Bentley, who transferred to Ole Miss from SMU after lighting it up there, we may have something.
Does the linebacker unit look solidified?
It’s easy to look at what this team returns defensively and figure out that linebacker is the one spot about which coaches may be concerned. Gone are Mark Robinson and Chance Campbell, along with reserves Momo Sanogo and Lakia Henry. Sure, the coaches brought in Troy Brown from Central Michigan and Khari Coleman from TCU, but there’s still a big question mark here. If Ole Miss wants to feel good about where it stands heading into the summer, we need to see two linebackers separate themselves as starters (at least for now).
Which young guys contribute?
Lastly, due to COVID and the transfer portal, it’s tough for some of the younger players to find a spot where they can make a difference. I’m interested to see who gets out there earlier than I would expect and makes a play. Obviously, this game will get playing time for almost everyone, but do we see some of the young players in the secondary or at wide receiver play in the first quarter? I’m also interested to see what a player like Tywone Malone does, given how he’s splitting time with baseball.
Even though the score and format don’t really matter Saturday, there’s a lot to pay attention to in the Grove Bowl.