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AdvoCare Texas Kickoff Preview: Ole Miss Rebels vs Texas Tech Red Raiders

AdvoCare Texas Kickoff Preview: Ole Miss Rebels vs Texas Tech Red Raiders

After a big Egg Bowl win in Starkville last Thanksgiving, the Rebels are finally back in action this Saturday at 11 a.m. against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

OXFORD, Miss. — The wait is over! The Ole Miss Rebels will take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders in Houston for the season opener Saturday, September 1st at 11 a.m. (CT) in NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans. The AdvoCare Texas Kickoff Game will be the first matchup between the two teams since 2009 when Ole Miss beat the Red Raiders, 47-34, in the Cotton Bowl.

(Click here for a link to the “Game Notes” for the matchup.)

During Monday’s press conference, head coach Matt Luke sounded as eager as Ole Miss fans are for the season to begin. “This is an awesome opportunity on a big stage against Texas Tech,” he said excitedly.

Ta’amu scampers for yardage against A&M. (Photo: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)

The Rebel offense has generated a reputation as one of the most dangerous in the nation. Senior QB Jordan Ta’amu has all the N.W.O. (“Nasty Wide Outs,” as the Ole Miss wide receivers are known) back at his disposal this season–a monster unit that will be very productive for the Rebels.

N.W.O members A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, and DaMarkus Lodge are leaders of this elite, explosive offense that is sure to terrorize opponents all year. The trio posted a combined 2,596 receiving yards in the 2017 season and are prepared to duplicate these statistics.

Brown, Metcalf, and Lodge aren’t the only explosive weapons for the Rebels. Running back Scottie Phillips and tight end Dawson Knox are also expected to be solid contributors to the Rebel attack this year.

And the explosive threats don’t stop there as Tylan Knight and Elijah Moore are two athletes from whom the staff expects big things in 2018,  with both likely to see time as punt returner and kick returner.

Dawson Knox with the yards after catch against LSU. Photo credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

Longo also expressed his pleasure with the depth of the Ole Miss tight ends, noting the performances of Dawson Knox, Octavious Cooley and Jason Pellerin as 3-year veterans at the position and indicating the Rebel offense will look to utilize them in different packages this season.

Luke announced Monday that JUCO transfer Phillips will start the game at running back against Tech, but he also indicated that Ole Miss fans could expect to see other backs get some snaps.

Coach Luke commented that both Eric Swinney and Isaiah Woullard would get snaps at running back in certain situations; however, the team announced Tuesday Swinney has mononucleosis and will be out approximately three weeks.

“Scottie will start the game,” Luke said. “He will get the majority of the carries, but you’ll see some others based on situations and where those guys are best at.”

After practice Tuesday, Woullard, who has now been catapulted into the backup running back role, said it is a blessing to him to have such an experienced Ole Miss offensive line in front of him.

The Ole Miss offensive line returns four starters with Greg Little, Sean Rawlings, Alex Givens, and Javon Patterson. Redshirt freshman Ben Brown will start at the right guard spot against Tech; however, Luke referred to Jordan Sims as “…a sixth starter.” Having such talented depth on the offensive line can be the difference maker in a game that is expected to be high scoring.

Texas Tech defense

The Rebels will have their hands full with an experienced Texas Tech defense that returns 10 from last season. The Red Raiders have three first-team All-Big 12 members with Dakota Allen at linebacker and Justus Parker and Jah’Shawn Johnson in the secondary.

Coach Longo was very complimentary of Tech’s defense Monday, saying: “It’s the most veteran-laden team they’ve had on defense in a while.”

Ole Miss defense ready to hit the field against Tech’s Air-Raid offense

Mohamed Sanogo has earned high praise from his coaches. (Photo credit: Cameron Brooks, Ole MIss Athletics)

Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff has high hopes for this year’s defense, especially at the linebacker spot. Sophomore Mohamed Sanogo and true freshman Kevontae’ Ruggs will be the two starting linebackers against the Red Raiders.

McGriff explained that Sanogo’s strong football IQ and communication skills–important traits for a linebacker–helped him earn the start against the Red Raiders.

McGriff also praised Ruggs at Monday’s press conference. “I don’t think he gets tired…he’s a born football player.”

With last season’s linebackers DeMarquis Gates and Tayler Polk having graduated, it will be exciting to see this new wave of Rebel linebackers.

Rebels preparing for all three of Tech’s QBs

The Ole Miss secondary will have its work cut out slowing down Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense. As of Tuesday evening, Texas Tech has not named a starting quarterback, so the defensive staff has been preparing for all three quarterbacks.

The Rebels are expecting junior McLane Carter to be the signal-caller Saturday; however, regardless of who it is, McGriff is confident in his secondary. He cited the Rebels “dynamic” WR corps as being a big help to his defense’s preparation because they can so accurately simulate Tech’s style of offense.

The coaches are excited about the production of junior Austrian Robinson who has taken on a bigger role and will be a starter at defensive end. Rebel fans can expect junior college transfer Tariqious Tisdale to add stability to the depth chart, as well, as he is listed number two behind Robinson.

Qaadir Sheppard, Victor Evans and Ryder Anderson will man the other defensive end spot, with Sheppard drawing he start against Tech. Senior defensive tackle Josiah Coatney and junior nose tackle Benito Jones, crucial leaders on the defense, will be the enforcers on the defensive line.

Getting off to a strong start

The game against the Red Raiders is pivotal for Ole Miss. The expectations are high and, frankly, the ceiling is even higher for a very talented Rebel team. Another year of chemistry under offensive coordinator Phil Longo and QB Jordan Ta’amu will make this year’s offense even more formidable.

Similarly, key leaders like Coatney and Chucky Mullins Courage Award Winner C.J. Moore will be crucial to the success of an Ole Miss defense that had its troubles last season. But as with the offense, the defensive players have had a year under their belt in McGriff’s system and feel confident in their progression.

There is definitely a sense of the importance for Ole Miss to leave Houston with a win, and you can bet Coach Luke and his staff will have their players fired up and ready to go for Saturday’s early kickoff.

This non-conference opener will be a great test for the Rebels and hopefully a positive sign for the 2018 campaign.

Hotty Toddy!

Hays Dubberly

Hays Dubberly

Hays Dubberly is a sophomore Ole Miss student from Jackson, Mississippi. Hays is majoring in Biochemistry with a minor in Math. He is a fan of the Atlanta Braves, New York Giants, and any team in the Ole Miss athletic department.

About The Author

Hays Dubberly

Hays Dubberly is a sophomore Ole Miss student from Jackson, Mississippi. Hays is majoring in Biochemistry with a minor in Math. He is a fan of the Atlanta Braves, New York Giants, and any team in the Ole Miss athletic department.

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