Film Study: Ole Miss still more than talented enough to beat Alabama
One of the most disrespected teams in college football — at least as it pertains to teams with a ton of elite personnel — has to be the University of Mississippi. Most of the narrative surrounding the Rebels had nothing to do with the fact that they possess NFL talent on each unit on both sides of the ball, but rather how bad the team lost in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl to end the 2014-15 season.
Never mind the 9-4 record behind two wins over teams who at once found themselves atop the polls — 23-17 over the University of Alabama, followed by a 31-17 drubbing of in-state rival Mississippi State — most media pundits would rather talk about how the coaching staff rewarded the players with rings in the offseason.
Now what type of sense does that make?
Furthermore, it doesn’t seem as though Ole Miss was afforded the same benefit of the doubt as other teams who were replacing starters from the previous season — despite one of the players coveting the starting gig being the extremely talented JUCO transfer Chad Kelly.
Instead, the rhetoric seemed to focus on a rap song dedicated to the Buffalo NY., native, and how brash he may or may not have been at Clemson University — before his dismissal for conduct detrimental to the team. But most should’ve focused on how his offense at East Mississippi Junior College was schematically similar and could cut down on a learning curve one might associate with a player not only switching schemes, but transitioning to major college football from a lower level of competition.
When I did my first film analysis on Kelly’s transition to head coach Hugh Freeze’s multiplicative offense scheme post spring practice, I did so with the thought of just how effective former long-time starter Bo Wallace was with his ability to improvise and threaten defenses with his legs. At the core of Freeze’s scheme, he wants to operate under the spread-to-pass mantra thus providing running lanes for his running backs and designer QB runs.
The 6’4″, 215-pound Wallace was as tough as they came; his highly deceptive speed allowed him to generate numerous explosive plays throughout his career, and his toughness made him the de facto short-yardage run option, too. But it was his lack of arm strength that made many feel as though Freeze wasn’t able to fully implement his concepts the way he wanted to as the vertical portion of the playbook wasn’t as reliable.
I often gleamed that it was the lack of a potent run game that allowed defensive coordinators to scheme it up against the Rebels as they could devote extra attention the strength of the offense: the receivers. Now that I’ve had a chance to see the offense in action with Kelly, albeit for two games against inferior competition, I can almost unequivocally say that was indeed the case.
Kelly, 6’3″, 220 pounds, is every bit as tough as Wallace, but has a ton more arm strength and is an even more explosive athlete. I always thought Wallace never got his proper due for being a scheme-specific fit, as he was very accurate in the quick game; Kelly has very similar ability in that arena. The reason Freeze likes bigger receivers is due to the fact that there’s a very heavy element of West Coast principles in his scheme, so receivers have to have run-after-catch ability to make the scheme go.
This coincides well with Kelly’s skill set as he has a rapid release and is pretty accurate in doing so.
Check out Kelly’s execution of this sharp slant to superstar receiver Laquon Treadwell; his ball-handling ability is one the best aspects of his game; Kelly throws a good anticipatory pass.
Play-action fakes are a huge staple to a Freeze offense, as he wants to freeze — and pardon the pun — the defense and force it to play a tad bit slower than normal. As the run game continues to evolve, especially as it pertains to the between-the-tackles portion of the playbook, the play-action game will become even more effective as there will be a legit threat of a run.
It will undoubtedly improve on the read-option portion, too, due to Kelly’s ability to bend the edge in the run game.
Packaged plays, a combination of concepts built into a singular play and ran repeatedly, are big in Ole Miss’ scheme as it allows for it to act with a tempo pace without having to really think; it usually derives from the read-option and branches out from there; Kelly’s ability to run the zone-read is top-notch.
This particular version appeared to be a keeper all the way as Kelly never read the end man on the line of scrimmage; the left tackle blocked two linemen and allowed Kelly to bend the corner and show off his athleticism.
Kelly having had the chance to study under renowned spread guru Chad Morris, his offensive coordinator at Clemson, is very underrated in terms of his polish. Looking ahead to the Rebel’s next match up with the mighty Crimson Tide of Alabama, Kelly’s understanding of spread principles may be just what the doctor ordered as the Tide have shown vulnerability to dual-threat QBs coming out of this type of system.
His ability to work the quick game, use his legs to manufacture yardage and ball-handling skills will be worth its weight in gold, but it may be his ability to go vertical that drives the Tide insane.
Kelly throws his deep ball very similar to New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees where he doesn’t put a ton of air under it, he simply gets the ball on his target much faster, which rarely allows for a stacked defender to get back into the play. Receiver Cody Core, featured in the above sequence, is one of the better deep-ball threats in the league and could find a prominent role against the Tide.
Kelly’s ability to quickly decipher also helps out an offensive line that has been, at times, the Achilles’ heel of the offense. He’s simply a scheme-specific fit for a team with a ferocious defense that requires more of a Lamborghini-type QB than traditional systems.
Pretty soon the rest of the media will catch up to how much of a threat this Mississippi team is.