Football
Barca Blog: Rebel offense brings balance

Sept. 17, 2008

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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17- 12:24 AM

Senior left tackle Michael Oher could be a top-five pick in the NFL draft next year.

After holding Rice's high-powered offense scoreless in the second half last weekend, Vanderbilt's defense will face another stern test Saturday against first-year head coach Houston Nutt's revamped attack at Ole Miss.

"I think Coach Nutt brings an attitude of toughness and efficiency in offense to Mississippi," said Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson. "I think he has made them so much better."

Not only do the Rebels still possess their signature power running game, but with the addition of sophomore quarterback Jevan Snead, a transfer from the University of Texas, Ole Miss now displays a more balanced offense that's averaging 34.3 points per game and 407.3 yards per outing.

At the core of their offense is an experienced starting line consisting of three seniors and two juniors. Led by All-American left tackle Michael Oher (6-5, 318), the Rebels front weighs a beefy average of 324 pounds -- 56 pounds heavier than the Commodores defensive line.

Johnson was complimentary of Oher, considered to be the nation's top tackle, during an interview with the 104.5 Wake Up Zone Tuesday.

"Oher's a huge, mobile offensive lineman and when he gets those big paws on you, it's over for that play. He's just hard to deal with."

When Nutt arrived in Oxford, he changed the Rebels blocking style to a more physical approach. The change has paid off and Ole Miss has yet to allow a sack on the year. With more time to throw, the offense has flourished under Snead, who's first in the SEC with six touchdown passes and second with 220 passing yards per game.

"He (Snead) has delivered for them," Johnson stated. "He gives them a big play opportunity on play-action passes. Overall, I have been very impressed with his consistency and how they have used him. He has a huge offensive line in front of him and they have done a good job of protecting him."

Snead has a trio of targets at receiver in junior Shay Hodge, junior Dexter McCluster and senior Mike Wallace. All three have at least eight catches and 150 yards receiving on the season.

Nutt has even added a few wrinkles to the play calling by installing the "Wild Rebel" formation, which features a player other than the quarterback taking the direct snap (usually McCluster), the same set he used with Darren McFadden at Arkansas.

And don't forget about the tailbacks. Freshman Brandon Bolden leads the team with 161 yards on the ground (6.7 per rush) while junior Cordera Eason has added 118 yards on 31 carries.

No matter what look Ole Miss presents, the Commodores defense will have to be ready for the new-look Rebel offense.

"They will run power football, but they're going to try and test us in the passing game also because they have a quarterback who can deliver the football," added Johnson. "It's going to be a game where we're going to have to play it all, which makes Ole Miss much harder to play than last year."

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