OXFORD, Miss. — Following the hires of offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez and defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre at Ole Miss during the off-season, some Rebels fans are wondering which coordinator will make the biggest impact on the field this fall?
One can look at it in different ways. For example: Which coordinator’s contribution will result in the biggest statistical improvement from last season to this season? Or, which coordinator’s input will result in more victories being etched into the wins column?
Biggest statistical improvement
In the first category of which coordinator will notch the biggest statistical improvement in his unit, we feel the answer will likely be defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre. Our reasoning is as follows:
The Rebels ranked 9th in the nation in total offense last season, averaging 510.5 yards per game and 7.12 yards per play. To expect Coach Rodriguez to duplicate the same total offense as former offensive coordinator Phil Longo is unlikely because of the style of offense Coach Rod will be implementing.
Ole Miss’ new OC is going to focus much more on establishing the running game and exploiting what the defense gives him in the passing game. While there may be a drop-off in total offensive yards under Coach Rod, his offense will be more effective and much more suitable to compete against SEC defenses.
On the flip side, the Rebels’ defense ranked 121st last year, giving up 483.4 yards per game at a rate of 6.32 yards per play. Without a doubt, this season’s defense will be much improved from 2018.
Coach MacIntyre has a proven track record of turning around defenses. While he was the defensive coordinator at Duke, his units recorded two of the best statistical seasons in Blue Devil history. He has a reputation for the development of defensive backs. While the head coach at Colorado, MacIntyre had three defensive backs drafted by the NFL in 2017, picked in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds.
It is also important to remember the 2017-2018 Ole Miss defense was dealt a blow when several key players went down early in the season. Jaylon Jones, the best defensive back on the roster and arguably the most important player on that defense, was lost in the season-opening win over Texas Tech.
Starting DB Montrell Custis was lost in the third game of the season against Alabama. Custis had been making a huge impact on the team during the first two weeks of the season as the Rebels headed into Alabama week. And, unfortunately, in the fifth week of the season, the Rebels lost their third starting defensive back in C.J. Moore. For a team already dealing with depth issues due to scholarship reductions, Ole Miss could not afford those injuries at defensive back while running a 4-2-5 defense in the SEC.
After Coach MacIntyre was hired, he spent the spring transitioning the team to a 3-4 defense. Although not the primary reason for the move to a 3-4, this transition should help shore up some of the depth issues the Rebels had in the secondary last season.
We would not be at all shocked if the Rebels’ defense jumped into the 70-80s in total defense this season. On the other side of the ball, because of the change in offensive scheme under Coach Rod, we expect the total offense to drop from ninth. How much of a drop remains to be seen, but it’s expected, and this is why Coach MacIntyre will have the bigger impact statistically in year one.
Bringing more W’s
Now, to the second way of looking at things– which coordinator will bring more W’s in the victory column for the Rebels this fall? We believe the offensive coordinator will likely have the biggest impact on W’s and L’s this season, based on how effectively his offense will be able to manage the clock and still put points on the board.
The style of offense Coach Rod brings to Ole Miss is going to help the Rebels’ defense via the key category of time of possession, allowing the defense to actually rest some between series this season.
Offensive possessions will last much longer than the fast, explosive hit-or-miss offense of last season. Last season, the Ole Miss offense was 122nd (out of 129) teams in time of possession, averaging a total of 27:24 with the ball. Coach Rod knows how to maximize the talent he has on his current roster and will adapt his playbook to fit his personnel. He possesses a good stable of running backs to work with to help impose his will on Ole Miss’ opponents and to control the clock. Redshirt freshman Matt Coral is also a perfect fit at quarterback in Coach Rod’s offense.
The bottom line, whether one looks at the new coordinators in terms of statistics or wins and losses, both of these off-season hires will make a positive difference in how the Rebels play this fall.