"We practiced inside today and worked a lot on third down situations," said Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron after putting his Rebels through a shells practice in the IPF today. "The guys are working hard."
Last week, Jamarca Sanford was switched from strong safety to Sam LB. He played the entire game against Auburn at his new position. Has he corrected his mistakes from his debut at LB?
"He didn't make many," said Coach O. "We had one coverage that was kind of hard to execute, but he's corrected that. Jamarca's been really good.
"The biggest adjustment he's had is playing on the big tight ends. Jamarca is on the line of scrimmage a lot and he's 5-10, or at least we list him at that, I'm not sure he's that tall."
Does O envision Jamarca staying at LB in the future?
"I would hope so. I don't know that, but he gives us some speed there. It all depends on the linebackers we sign. We don't have much depth there and we do feel like he can do the job at linebacker. I believe he will be at linebacker in the spring, for sure. From there, I don't know," Orgeron assessed. "I think he enjoys linebacker because he likes to hit and be around the ball. You have to be a certain type of guy to backpedal, which you do at safety a lot. He likes to move forward and attack."
With Sanford at SLB, Orgeron's defense has three very fast linebackers with Patrick Willis
, Rory Johnson
and Sanford. How much difference has that made to the defense?
"We are certainly playing faster. The speed at the Will LB with Rory has really helped. We haven't had that speed since I have been here," said O. "Those double-digit tackles he's making a game were 2 or 3 before from that position. Speed has been a big difference.
"Rory is coming on strong, but he's still very raw. There are a lot of things he can learn to recognize before the snap that will help him out a lot in the future."
Will Rory be the heir apparent to Willis at MLB next year?
"Maybe. It all depends on what we have and what we are going to do. Obviously, we know what he can do. Can we recruit a Mike to take Willis' place and leave Rory at Will? He can definitely be a fantastic Mike, but he's also very valuable at Will," Orgeron stated.
Auburn was 4-14 on third-down conversions, which is an improvement over previous defensive efforts the Rebs had this season.
"That's pretty good, but there were two of them that really hurt us. We didn't have a lot of problems on third down passes, but we gave up a lot on first and second downs," he explained. "71% of the time, we got off the field on third down, which is the highest we have been all year, so that's a positive."
Freshman CB Cassius Vaughn
got to play a little more against Auburn. O was asked about his progress this year.
"We think he's going to be a really good player for us. He has a couple of blocked punts. His track background really helps him out because of his quick start, especially in blocking punts," O noted. "Cassius has things to learn at corner, but what we like about him is his speed."
The message Orgeron is giving the team the week after the Auburn game is simple.
"Finish," he said. "We have to finish games. We have to finish hard in practice and finish hard in games, making the plays we need to make.
"The team is very confident right now that we can play at a high level. We just need to finish."
After this weekend's game, the Rebs get a needed open week.
"Next week is going to be used for healing the guys, resting them up and the staff will be out recruiting a lot," he said. "We will only practice a couple of times next week."
Coach O faces his alma mater this week. He has good memories of his time at NW State.
"I have a lot of friends there. I am very happy to have a degree from Northwestern. I know a lot of people from there - the head coach, the trainer, the equipment manager, some of the administration. The people around town were very nice to me. It was a great time and I made a lot of friends," he stated. "We had five or six Cajuns on the team and that was different for them because that was North Louisiana. They knew us well. There are good people there."
The "Coach O Song" has been a hit on the internet for a few weeks. What was his reaction to it when he first heard it?
"My sons were listening to it. I didn't know anything about it. They were upstairs hooting and hollering and I asked them what was going on. They said 'Daddy, you gotta hear this.' I listened to it and it's funny. Being in L.A. those years, you expect anything," he said. "I have no problem with that kind of stuff. It's all for laughs. It's all part of football, you know?"
Ole Miss kept their eyes on the prize - a win over Northwestern State - today with another productive practice, according to Rebel Coach Ed Orgeron. Read about it inside.