Mississippi Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Ole Miss Rebels
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Ole Miss Rebels Preview 2006 - Ole Miss Further Analysis

1st and Ten – “P Willie” - The Best Linebacker in the Land? – How often have you heard this hyperbole in your lifetime - “Man, I could beat you with one hand tied behind my back.”  For as absolutely exaggerated as that might be, Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis actually put that theory to test last year…and passed with flying colors.  The star Rebel middle backer played much of the season with a club on his hand, the proverbial “one hand behind his back” theory.  Then, he proved that he could beat you, or anyone else for that matter.  The underappreciated (to the nation that is) Willis finished the year with 128 tackles in only ten games, along with 9.5 tackles for a loss and 3 sacks.  The man had nearly 13 tackles per game with one hand.  When you watch a game this fall, think about that.  Watch players miss tackle after tackle with two good hands and you’ll realize how good this guy actually was last year and how scary good he’ll be in 2006, if he’s 100% healthy.  He might be the hardest hitter in the nation and when you see him play, you won’t dispute that fact in the slightest.  And, you’re glad that you weren’t on the receiving end of a Willis hit or ‘clubbing’, if you will.  At 6’2” and only 230, he’s similar to Maryland’s D’Qwell Jackson, but the former Terp got to ball carriers and made plays.  Willis gets to the ball and makes headaches.  One aspect of the 2006 season that could make things difficult for him is the loss of his defensive line.  Although there are some talented youngsters on the defensive line in front of him, Willis might have to encounter a little more trash in front of him.  But, he does have two free hands this year.

2nd and Seven – Go west, young man, go west – Horace Greeley’s quote takes on a completely different meaning for QB Brent Schaeffer.  If you’re from Florida every movement is westward, but Schaeffer went all the way to California to the College of the Sequoias to get another opportunity to prove himself after one year at Tennessee.  Although he didn’t make it back east for spring practice, head coach Ed Orgeron has still named him the starter when he does show up and Ole Miss fans will never have seen a QB (or anyone else for that matter) quite as fast as him.  He’s not as polished throwing the ball, but do not for a second think that he’s the number one guy because he’s the next Eli Manning.  But, for as special as he is when he runs the ball, he throws it well enough to counteract how lightning quick he is in the open field.  Ultimately for Schaeffer, the key will be how consistently he can throw it in Dan Werner’s offense.  However, his presence alone makes defensive coordinators nervous - they end up spending more time preparing for his ability to escape the pocket, taking time away from focusing on two strong running backs.  Schaeffer didn’t get an opportunity in Knoxville to play a full 60 minutes for a full season, but this year, if he does, look out.  There might be a few more young QBs heading west to follow in his footsteps.

3rd and Three – “Where have you gone, BenJarvus Green-Ellis?” – Okay, so BenJarvus Green-Ellis doesn’t fit the Simon and Garfunkel song quite like Joe DiMaggio, but the song is definitely fitting for the former Big Ten star.  At Indiana, Green-Ellis ran for 1,732 yards in his two years, but it was typically for naught as he was nearly a one man band on offense in those years.  Green-Ellis gives the Rebels a little bit of everything – power running, physical blocking and explosiveness.  Teaming with Mico McSwain, an honorable mention freshman All-American last season, and Schaeffer, the Rebel running game just got that much scary for SEC defenses.  The challenge, of course, will be to find a way to get Green-Ellis and McSwain on the field at the same time.  Although the Louisiana native had ‘left and gone away’ (that’s part of the lyric, folks – go with me here), he’s found his way back to the deep south, joining his head coach, another fellow Cajun.  Speaking of Eddie O…

4th and One – The Orgeron Factor – What can you say about Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron?  His like isn’t found often in college football or any other level of football, for that matter, and there should be a few more like him.  He has an intense passion, a love for the game and, more importantly for Rebel followers, a craving to win.  His ability to recruit is almost without peer, and his recruiting classes get better and better.  But, similar to what has transpired for Chuck Amato of NC State, Orgeron had some significant changes on his coaching staff in only his first year.  Throughout Amato’s tenure at NC State, he’s been vilified, even parodied, for his inability to keep his staff together.  Now, it’s only year one for Orgeron, but on the flip side, it’s only year one.  College staffs don’t often stay together year after year, but the great staffs do.  Orgeron stated after spring ball that he loves the make up of his coaching staff and the energy and enthusiasm they bring to this team, so maybe that’ll be a step in the right direction to keeping a strong staff together for a while.

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