Coach Luke says Rebels working hard, looking forward to home opener against Arkansas
OXFORD, Miss. — This Saturday, Ole Miss (0-1, 0-0) will face Arkansas (1-0, 0-0) at home inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in the SEC opener for both teams. After his Rebels lost, 15-10, to Memphis last week, Coach Luke explained the message he’s giving his team moving forward.
“Keep getting better, keep working to get better,” Luke began. “Teams that end the season better than they started are the ones that are good. I think that’s what we have to continue to do. Let’s build on the defensive performance. Offensive guys, we’ve got good enough players. Let’s settle down and get the ball to the right spot, get the ball to our playmakers, and let’s just go make plays,” he continued.
“Just keep building that confidence–and it sure will be good to be home in front of a home crowd in the SEC home opener. The message is just let’s go prepare to win a football game. Everybody is excited on game day, but you’ve got to prepare during the week, so that’s the message.”
Coach Luke on the message to his team
Luke believes the team is responding well this week in practice to a must-win game this early in the season. “I think the kids have bounced back. It’s been a good week of work,” Luke said.
“It was physical yesterday. We ended up practicing red ball today, which is tempo, good against good. I think it’s been a very focused and energetic week.”
Coach Luke mentioned Monday during his weekly press conference that true freshman offensive tackle Nick Broeker will be getting more reps at tackle in the Arkansas game.
Luke says the 6-foot-6, 305-pound lineman out of Springfield, Illinois has responded well in practice this week. “I think he’s prepared well. We just gotta have the confidence to stick him in there and let’s go,” Luke said.
“He’s obviously a true freshman. but he will continue to get better. There will be some growing pains like there is with all those guys that play for the first time. He’s a guy who plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played. He will keep continuing to get better and he’s got a bright future.”
Coach Matt Luke on Nick Broeker
Darius Thomas update
Ole Miss signed seven offensive linemen in the class of 2019. One of the biggest signees was Darius Thomas out of Jonesboro, Arkansas.
After Thomas arrived on campus back in May, doctors discovered he could potentially have a heart condition, so the team has kept Thomas from participating in football activities until he is medically reevaluated and cleared.
Coach Luke gave an update on Thomas yesterday after practice. “He’ll be back to the doctor, and they’ve got to do all the tests again,” Luke said.
“I’m hopeful that it will be good results and he can start practicing. But, obviously, when it comes to the heart, you’ve got to be very, very careful and make sure. But he’s obviously a guy that we think can help us, but we’ve got to get the test results back and hopefully we can move him forward in the next couple weeks.”
Coach Luke on Darius Thomas’ condition
Hopefully Thomas will be cleared and able to participate soon, but at the end of the day, the young man’s health is more important than the game of football, and this Ole Miss staff isn’t taking any chances until Thomas is ruled medically eligible. If he is cleared to play, he should be able to provide some depth on the offensive line at some point, but it might be more likely the coaches would opt to redshirt Thomas as he is likely not in football shape after missing summer conditioning and fall camp.
Alex Givens’ return
One very bright spot on the offense line is the full return of Alex Givens to practice after playing against Memphis last week. Coach Luke wants to continue to increase Givens’ reps this weekend against the Razorbacks.
“You’re still trying to work him to get back into a true game shape in being as fast and good as he can be,” Luke explained. “He played 40 snaps last week, and hopefully he will play 50 or 60 this week.”
Facing the Hogs
The Rebels will have their hands full against Arkansas this weekend as the Razorbacks sport an experienced defensive front seven. The Ole Miss O-line is going to have to get better in a hurry. Coach Luke offered his assessment of the talented defense the Rebels face this weekend.
“It’s a four-man front, they’ll play a little bit of ‘bear,’ play some cover one. That’s (defensive coordinator) Coach (John) Chavis, what he does. He’s not going to change, and he’s really good at what he does,” Coach Luke said.
“They’ve got two seniors in there at defensive line that are very very stout and a mike linebacker who seems like he’s been there forever, so they’re very, very good in the middle. Same thing offensively with their quarterbacks and their running backs, so up the middle they’ve got a lot of experience and are very good,” Luke added.
Arkansas has a great defensive coordinator in Chavis. What should the Rebels expect from the defensive guru? “Chavis is an experienced guy, been doing it a long time,” said Luke.
“There’s nothing he hasn’t seen. He’s an experienced coordinator—been in the battles ever since we’ve been here, whether it’s been at LSU, A&M, or Arkansas. He’s been through it, and we’ve faced him several times. A lot of familiarity but a lot of respect for him as a person and a coach.”
Coach Luke on Arkansas DC John Chavis
Ole Miss is considered a six-and-a-half-point favorite heading into the critical Week 2 contest against Arkansas. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m., and the game will be televised on the SEC Network.
(Video: Ross Montgomery, The Rebel Walk)