Two-minute drill: Ole Miss vs. Wofford
Throughout the season, The Rebel Walk’s Joel Jackson will bring you our “Two-Minute Drill,” a quick weekly look at the Rebels’ upcoming opponents through the eyes of the beat writers who cover them. This Saturday, September 10, Ole Miss plays Wofford in Oxford.
Wofford, an FCS school in Spartanburg, South Carolina, plays in the Southern Conference. Despite going 5-6 last year, they are generally regarded as one of the better programs in the conference. Since 2003, they have won 4 conference titles and have made the FCS playoffs 6 times in that same time span.
With all of that being said, Joel was able to reach out to Harrison Hudson, who runs the Talkin Terriers blog. He was able to provide some great insight into a team about which not a lot of people are aware.
Rebel Walk: Wofford was 5-6 last year, and with the exception of a couple of blowouts, were seemingly in the rest of the losses. What areas of the team need to improve this season.
Harrison Hudson: Wofford, for the last few seasons, has been in a sort of rebuilding mode; during that time, the Terriers have been shoring up a relatively young offensive line and secondary, among other things, and were constantly being rebuffed by injuries. Several veteran players went down and were limited or held out of spring practice, and there were a large number of surgeries undergone this offseason.
Another drawback was the staff’s hindrance to place its full trust in a definite starting quarterback, instead rotating at times between Evan Jacks, Brandon Goodson and Brad Butler. Perhaps this had some negative impact on the offense’s ability to gel and fall into a clean, consistent rhythm — a trait that has made Wofford’s option attack so effective in past years.
Jacks, who was entering his senior year, had looked poised to solely take the reins for the Terriers in 2016, with the consensus being if the squad’s nucleus could dance around the injury bug and stay healthy, there was a sense that this could be Wofford’s shot back towards the top of the Southern Conference. Unfortunately, we have the following update on Jacks.
Jacks’ career ended abruptly when he suffered a knee injury during a preseason scrimmage. Brad Butler got the start last week at Tennessee Tech, where he rushed for 85 yards and all three of Wofford’s touchdowns. Despite early indications he could be Wofford’s No. 1 quarterback, the decision to start Butler or Brandon Goodson will likely be handled on a game-by-game basis.
Rebel Walk; Wofford runs a version of the wishbone/triple option. Do the Terriers add any wrinkles to the typical wishbone or do they stay true to the offense?
Harrison Hudson: The Terriers’ bread-and-butter is, of course, the “wingbone,” a hybrid of the wishbone and wing-T sets, but head coach Mike Ayers and offensive coordinator Wade Lang — who have both been patrolling the sidelines in Spartanburg since 1988 — have never been shy to incorporate new wrinkles. It provides for a lot of variation and versatility; they can run modified wingbone sets with the quarterback out of the shotgun, make good use of tight ends and there was even a brief resurgence of the traditional wishbone a while back.
Wofford has been consistently attempting to open up its passing game into something more than an element of surprise used when opposing defenses are mesmerized by rush after rush; last season, the Terriers had success with a young receiver, R.J. Taylor, and his increased presence — along with several others and the future of a redshirt freshman named Jason Hill — are an encouragement.
(In a disappointing loss at The Citadel last season, Wofford actually finished with more passing yards than rushing yards, the first time in a long while that occurred.)
In the end, though, it almost always comes down to the ground game, and Wofford has some veterans looking to come back from injuries in Will Gay and Nick Colvin, as part of a rotating tandem of backfield talent, both young and old. Of course, Lorenzo Long looks to have a big senior year, and Wofford’s offensive line — immensely important to the Terriers’ success — should be much improved.
Rebel Walk: The defense returns 9 starters from last year. Overall they did a good job stopping the run, but gave up yards in the passing game. What do they need to do to improve this?
Harrison Hudson: Again, like other things, some of it definitely has to do with inexperience and depletions due to injury; generally, this year’s defense could be the best it has been in years.
The linebacker corps was still pretty young last season — several starters were sophomores — and it showed at times. This season, however, things should go smoothly, with the added experience and the all-important depth not lacking. Elsewhere in the secondary, safety Jaleel Green and cornerback Chris Armfield will be definite leaders in their senior years.
On the D-line, Wofford returns some fantastic playmakers in nose tackle Miles Brown, who led the team in sacks last season as a freshman, and ends Steven Cornellier and Boston Bryant — and, of course, hopefully some more nicked-up players that will be at 100 percent by the time September rolls around and can contribute.
Rebel Walk: Lorenzo Long led the team in rushing last season. What are some of the things that make him special?
Harrison Hudson: Long endured a rough stretch a few seasons ago in which he showed some inconsistencies in ball control. He has since overcome that, and matured into the strong, heady fullback Wofford needs — with some good speed to boot. Perhaps his senior year will provide some flashes of another great Terrier fullback who also wore the No. 7 jersey (Eric Breitenstein — encourage you to look him up).
Tragedy averted in Wofford’s season-opener
Last Thursday in the third quarter of Wofford’s game vs. Tennessee Tech, it was all tied at 7-7 when Terrier outside linebacker Michael Roach fell to the ground from the bench, not breathing. The public address announcer called for medical personnel to assist the fallen player “immediately.” Stunned fans, players and coaches watched helplessly as a defibrillator was used in an attempt to revive Roach. This has highlighted the importance of first aid training so people in the vicinity could help in a situation like this. Fortunately, there are numerous first aid training centers such as Richmond Hill Coast2Coast that can be used to educate people. In addition to training, there has been an increase in sporting arenas housing an on-site AED, similar to those found in ZOLL’s Plus model package as having such equipment on hand at any time could help to save the life to players or spectators.