Photo courtesy of Ole Miss athletics
After one week of SEC play, there were some surprise players, who emerged for Ole Miss.
The offense is night and day compared to Week 1 in 2019, and football is finally fun to watch again in Oxford. Let’s take a look at each position group and grade their performance from Saturday’s 51-35 loss to No. 5 Florida.
Matt Corral deserves all the credit in the world for his season-opening performance. His passing was up and down in 2019, often coming in for a series or two per game. His arm strength was always there, but an antiquated offense, little separation by receivers, and very few high-percentage pass plays led to incompletions.
That all changed last Saturday. Corral threw for three scores and nearly 400 yards, while also rushing for 50 yards. He stood poised in the pocket all game, hitting Elijah Moore, Kenny Yeboah, and Dontario Drummond right on the numbers with incredible velocity on each pass.
Despite a fluke tipped interception, Corral led the SEC in efficiency during Week 1. His speed allowed him to extend several plays when the pocket collapsed and receivers weren’t open. Realistically speaking, Ole Miss could not ask for a better debut from its starter.
Wide Receivers/Tight ends: A-
Elijah Moore picked up right where he left off last season, leading the SEC in yards by a wide receiver in Week 1. With 10 catches for 227 yards, Moore’s draft stock certainly rose and will continue to do so going forward.
Dontario Drummond emerged as the No. 2 target, catching two touchdowns and making a beautiful throw on a double pass to Jerrion Ealy. Jonathan Mingo had a quiet day, catching one pass for a 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter. Look for him to get more action against a favorable secondary match-up in Week 2.
For the first time in years, Rebel fans saw their offense utilize a tight end in the passing attack. Temple transfer Kenny Yeboah had a strong showing, with five receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. Though his numbers were nothing compared to the monster day that Kyle Pitts had for Florida, Yeboah could easily be a top-3 tight end in the conference.
This group made some big plays against a strong secondary, but head coach Lane Kiffin and staff would like to see Demarcus Gregory, Braylon Sanders, and Miles Battle emerge as viable options going forward.
Running Backs: B
No surprise here – Jerrion Ealy led the rushing attack with 79 yards and a score. He also made some timely catches, registering 44 yards through the air. He’s one of the top running backs in the conference, and the only complaint would be not getting him 20-plus touches a game. Snoop Conner and Tylan Knight saw limited action, accounting for 37 yards on the ground.
All things considered, this group had a good day against a stout front seven. With the offense playing catch-up all game, Ealy and company were not able to showcase their talent as much.
Offensive Line: B
Illinois products Nick Broeker and Royce Newman anchored the Rebels’ line Saturday. Broeker emerged from fall camp as the next big left tackle to follow in the footsteps of Michael Oher, Laremy Tunsil, and Greg Little. Newman is the lone senior on the Rebel offensive line.
Despite allowing four sacks on the day, the offensive line provided adequate time for Corral to pick apart the Florida secondary, while also providing solid downhill blocking for the run. This is a group that former head coach Matt Luke spent most of his time recruiting. The Rebels look forward to watching them grow this season.
With a shortened camp and a brand-new coaching staff, many weren’t expecting the offense to be this sharp in Week 1. Kiffin started the game with a bang, opting to go for it on 4th-and-3 during the opening drive. According to his recent interview on Pardon My Take, he has an in-game “analytics guy” to tell him the probabilities in crucial situations like the one above.
The trick plays, numerous downfield passes, and weapons in the backfield tell us this will be a fun season, reminiscent of the high-flying Hugh Freeze offenses. Rebel fans have a lot to look forward to in the years to come.