To the anonymous coach who called out Ole Miss: What are you talking about?
Everyone is entitled to their opinion.
It’s my job to provide mine. You might not always agree with it, and I might not always agree with yours. That’s the beauty of America. We can agree to disagree.
But I take exception to misinformed opinions, and to people who refuse to stand by them.
That’s what it looked we got from an anonymous SEC coach, who questioned Ole Miss’ short- and long-term outlook in the annual Athlon Sports preview magazine:
“I don’t care what anyone says or how they try to spin it there, this is a dead program walking. At least for a couple of years. They lost an elite quarterback and receiver because they didn’t want to hang around for the NCAA fallout, and they’re still dealing with that on the road in recruiting… There were some really qualified coaches who wanted that job, but only with a significant commitment to security. I’m talking six or seven years of commitment. I truly believe that’s why Matt (Luke) was retained. It’s easy to move on from him once it hits rock bottom… A.J. Brown might be the best receiver in our league. A physical, tough, catch anything receiver. And he can run. The question is, can (Jordan) Ta’amu get him the ball consistently? I know everyone is talking about the great numbers Ta’amu put up last season when Shea Patterson got hurt. But he wasn’t facing the best defenses in our league. He had a few gimme putts out there. I want to see if he can do it when the big boys are on the field…”
Ok, there’s a lot to pick apart with that. I’m going to circle back to the “dead program walking” line because that’s really the overarching theme with this.
Yes, Ole Miss lost Shea Patterson and Van Jefferson via transfer after the NCAA hit the program with a postseason ban for 2018. Both players are talented, no doubt, and could be considered “elite” players by some, though not by all. Technically, they actually did hang around for the NCAA fallout because that’s why they transferred. Both are possible 2019 NFL Draft prospects and playing in the postseason is pretty important for that.
But ask Ole Miss fans which positions they’re most confident in for the 2018 season and they’ll probably tell you it’s quarterback and receiver.
As this anonymous coach alluded to, Brown is the best returning receiver in the SEC (well, he said might be, but I’m saying he is). This anonymous coach might have forgotten that while Ole Miss is losing an “elite” receiver, D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge also are back after each finishing with 600-plus receiving yards and 7 touchdowns. Jefferson might be elite, but the Rebels obviously aren’t hurting for talent and experience at the position.
That leads me to this anonymous coach’s other concern: that Ta’amu can’t get them the ball.
We’ll move past the fact that as a starter following Patterson’s season-ending injury, the Ole Miss quarterback completed 67 percent of his passes for 9.94 yards per attempt with an 11-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. This anonymous coach is obviously focused on the “non-gimme games,” so he’s under the impression that beating 7-win Kentucky on the road doesn’t count, and nor do games with 360-plus passing yards vs. Arkansas and Louisiana.
So if this anonymous coach is calling just Texas A&M and Mississippi State “the big boys,” he’s calling a kid out for completing 56 percent of his passes for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns one week, and throwing for 247 yards and a couple touchdowns in a road victory vs. a 9-win team the next. Oh, and Mississippi State was 12th in FBS against the pass in 2017.
But sure, let’s question if Ta’amu, who threw for 296.5 yards per SEC matchup, can get the ball to his receivers against “the big boys.” The anonymous coach might have missed the part where Patterson averaged 6.39 yards per attempt against Alabama and Auburn last year.
I think the anonymous coach also missed the part where Mississippi state law doesn’t allow for contracts longer than 4 years. That’s why Luke didn’t get a 6- or 7-year deal after he shed the interim tag following the 2017 season. Perhaps the anonymous coach thought that Ole Miss should break state law to try and hire a different coach, and not the one who led the program to 6 wins while playing in the toughest division in college football after Hugh Freeze’s stunning departure.
I don’t know if Luke is the long-term guy, but I know that motivating a team to 6 wins with a postseason ban with that kind of cloud hanging over the program couldn’t have been easy.
That’s another thing I didn’t understand. Why does this anonymous coach think “rock bottom” is still coming? Isn’t rock bottom having your respected head coach get fired for texting escort services as your former head coach sues you all while you’re awaiting an NCAA ruling on severe punishments or recruiting violations?
The cloud over Ole Miss is actually gone now. That’s what Luke said a couple months ago when he was asked about having the No. 1 recruiting class in America. The Rebels’ 2019 class since has slipped to No. 11 overall and No. 4 in the SEC, but I’d hardly call that a program that looks like it’s still dealing with the NCAA fallout.
We’re talking about the loss of 13 scholarships over a 3-year stretch. That’s not the end of the world (Penn State bounced back from losing 20 scholarships in 4 years in the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal).
This anonymous coach made it seem like the end was near for Ole Miss. If that idea was floated out before the NCAA ruling came down last December, I’d understand it. Looming NCAA punishments are obviously brutal for recruiting, and if players were already flying out the door left and right, it would have been an even bigger blow. That wasn’t the case like this anonymous coach made it out to be.
Do I have a problem with someone saying it could be a rough year for Ole Miss? Not at all. In fact, I think the Rebels’ ceiling is 7 wins unless they get some massive defensive improvements that include occasionally stopping the run. I’ll put my name on that take.
But this anonymous coach take came off like someone who desperately wants to see Ole Miss suffer. If that was something a coach actually believed, why not be willing to put your name on it? That way, I could at least direct my frustration with the half-baked opinion at a specific person.
Instead, I’ll settle for calling an anonymous coach horribly misinformed and extremely weak for not owning it.