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Spring Check-In: Ole Miss

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We get some deets on how spring practice went in Oxford with Red Cup Rebellion’s Jim Lohmar.

Mississippi v Mississippi State Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images

1. Wait, why the hell are we playing y’all in September this year? What did you do to Shea Patterson this time?

I believe the last time we spoke, LSU throttled Ole Miss to the tune of 40-24 in Oxford. That night, you may recall, saw the Tigers run wild for 593 total yards of offense. Further still, in what in retrospect proved imminently prescient, Shea Patterson tweaked his knee late in the first half and had to be helped off the field. He would later have season-ending surgery to repair his PCL, then he would announce that he was reopening his recruitment, then he’d go on to announce that he was transferring to Michigan.

So, to answer the second part of your question here, it’s not what we did to Shea this time, but rather what you did to Shea. In any case, though, that fateful evening would actually turn out alright for the Rebs, with the emergence of Jordan Ta’amu and the excellent season he finished out at the helm. As for why this game is happening in September, well, that’s a harder question to answer. LSU represents the third game in a pretty jacked early season for Ole Miss through August and September. The Rebs open the season against Texas Tech in Houston, then two weeks later host Alabama, then two weeks after that get COACHO ON THE ROADO.

2. How has spring practice gone for the Rebs this year under now-officially official head coach Matt Luke? What has the vibe been like now that the sanctions cloud has dropped its payload?

I admittedly haven’t been keeping sharp eyes on spring ball this year. The baseball team looks like they’re really on one, and so our attentions have necessarily pivoted to Swayze Field. After a brief look at the team’s Twitter account, a few key pieces are a bit dinged up on offense, but nobody seems all that worried. Matt Corrall is running snaps alongside Ta’amu with the first team, and in all likelihood he’ll see decent playing time against the cupcakes on the schedule. Usual platitudes about hunger, appetite, WANTING IT, and the like.

I’d say the vibe regarding the NCAA case is probably that of relief. Sure, no bowl game again this year, but at least now we, they, know what it’s about and can move on. There’s of course been this recent flap with Ole Miss and Patterson’s eligibility status, and that’s dominated most of the NCAA case coverage, but on the whole we at RCR are just glad not to be writing about it anymore. Let me here also say that I took over managing the site not two weeks before Hugh Freeze resigned, so my very first major news event as an EIC was that stupid business.

3. Jordan Ta’amu had his impressive moments down the stretch last year after Patterson’s injury. What are you hoping to see him improve on?

I guess I’ll answer in the negative and say that I hope he doesn’t regress. His floor, hopefully, is as a serviceable stand-in who doesn’t make mistakes. His ceiling, however high up it goes, is that of an incredible talent who can run and throw in equally effective measure. There’s been talk of trying to get a year of eligibility back for him, which would be great if he can continue to churn out the results he flashed in 2017.

4. Ole Miss struggled on defense last year, even with Breeland Speaks. Any real hope for improvement this year?

The short answer is yes, there’s hope for improvement. The other short answer is skepticism on our end doesn’t really see the defense improving. Maybe it will. They’ve targeted some promising guys along the front seven, but we’ve been burned too badly over the last two seasons to really get up on this unit.

5. Overall, what’s the mood like for Ole Miss fans right now? There seems to be a bit of a split about the Luke hire, but he seemed to indicate he can at least hold the rope for a few years until all this outside business is firmly in the rear-view mirror. Are there real expectations, or just hope to make things interesting?

My hope is always to keep things interesting. The offense will probably be good. Phil Longo apparently runs it out of a base of like 15 or so sets, but there’s plenty of room to fiddle around within those parameters. A.J. Brown will be a first-round pick in next year’s draft class, so it’ll be exciting to see him prove that to us over the course of this season.

There was an initial spat when Matt Luke was announced as the guy. Certainly our staff felt disappointed, even considering he improved the team’s record from the previous year as the interim, after taking over in fucking JULY. This coming season is the buy or sell on the Luke hire, for me at least. No bowl, so coach and play like you’ve got nothing to lose. That makes this a somewhat dangerous team, now that I think about it, and every single SEC victory they pull down this season will drive the team they beat utterly batshit insane. That’s what I want.