Rebel RoundUp: Kiffin and Rebels look to right the ship against Vandy
OXFORD, Miss. — Well, last Saturday the Gus Bus derailed the Lane Train at Vaught-Hemingway, thanks (in part) to a bad call by the officials when they didn’t review a potential turnover on a kickoff–a call that ultimately cost Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin $25,000 for a retweet he made on Twitter that was critical of the missed call. Nevertheless, the Rebel faithful are putting this behind us and moving on to the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Going into the game against Vandy, the Rebels rank top three in the SEC in seven separate categories: total offense (521.0), rushing offense (220.4), team passing efficiency (162.33), fourth down conversion percentage on defense (.333), fumbles lost (1), kickoff return defense (15.92), passing yards per completion (14.05).
Ole Miss has rushed for more than 240 yards in three straight games, including a season high 283 yards vs. Auburn. Running back Jerrion Ealy ranks No. 16 in the nation with six rushing TDs on the season.
Quarterback Matt Corral ranks ninth nationally in passing touchdowns (12), and his 338.4 yards per game of total offense ranks No. 12 in the NCAA. Elijah Moore, one of Corral’s favorite targets, is fifth in the nation in receptions per game (9.4) and sixth in the NCAA in receiving yards (591). Another of Corral’s receivers is tight end Kenny Yeboah. The Temple grad transfer’s 87.6 receiving yards per game are the third-most in the NCAA amongst tight ends. Yeboah is one of only four players nationally, and the only tight end, who has three or more catches greater than 50 yards.
The Rebel defense has forced a turnover in four of their five games this season and is ranked tied for fourth in the SEC in fumbles recovered. Sam Williams is tied for second in the league with six tackles for loss, averaging 1.20 per game.
Ole Miss at Vandy Game Info
DATE: Oct. 31, 2020
TIME: 3 p.m. CT
LOCATION: Vanderbilt Stadium • Nashville, Tenn.
TV: SEC Network – Dave Neal (pxp), D.J. Shockley (analyst), Dawn Davenport (reporter) HOME RADIO: David Kellum (pxp), Harry Harrison (analyst), Richard Cross (sidelines)
Series History and Side Notes
Saturday marks the 95th meeting between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt dating back to 1894. This is the third-most played series all-time between Ole Miss and its 2020 opponents (Mississippi State, LSU).
The Rebels lead the series 50-40-2 overall. (The original record vs. the Commodores is 52-40-2, with wins in 2013 and 2014 by Ole Miss vacated due to NCAA ruling.)
Coach Kiffin is 1-0 all-time vs. Vanderbilt with the lone meeting coming in 2009 when Kiffin was the head coach at Tennessee.
Entering the game at 1-4, the Rebels will be facing a Vandy team that has only played three games this season because of COVID and injuries. Vanderbilt’s troubles began before the season even started with several players opting out due to the coronavirus pandemic. Injuries added an even bigger toll on head coach Derek Mason’s roster as the Commodores lost to Texas A&M (17-12), LSU (41-7), and South Carolina (41-7). Following the 0-3 start, the Commodores’ roster became so depleted that they were forced to postpone their Oct. 17 game against Missouri. After sitting out last week with a bye, Vandy finally appears to be ready to play, though they will still be shorthanded when they take the field for the first time in three weeks.
Last year Vanderbilt used a trio of QBs and struggled to get into a rhythm all year long, but this season the Commodores have decided to roll with a fresh face. The QB battle was between junior college transfer Jeremy Moussa and true freshman Ken Seals, with the latter winning the job. Seals came to Vanderbilt from Weatherford High School in Texas where he threw for over 3,000 yards and added another 500 on the ground.
Vanderbilt has opened things up under new Offensive Coordinator Todd Fitch who has implemented the spread offense to help suit Seals’ style of play. Look for Vanderbilt to get the ball out of Seals hands quickly and for Ole Miss to apply pressure to him in the red zone where he has struggled this year. On the season Seals has completed 61% of his passes for 411 yards through three games.
Ken Seals with a dime in the end zone👀
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 27, 2020
JaVeon Marlow isn’t listed on the depth chart for Saturday’s contest so the backfield will likely feature a 1-2 punch of Jamauri Wakefield and Keyon Brooks. A senior who was injured last season, Wakefield is the lead back and has had the majority of carries for the Commodores this season, carrying the ball 37 times. Keyon Brooks is the more explosive of the two, and he impressed in his debut performance against South Carolina on both the ground and in receptions. He finished that game with 72 yards on 13 attempts while also hauling in four receptions. Stopping the running game will be huge for Ole Miss and they’ll look to keep Seals out of short and manageable situations.
Was good to see Jamauri Wakefield back in the mix at running back after he missed 2019 with an injury – solid vision and patience here to slip through a hole that wasn't there pic.twitter.com/EcNhWLJaSD
— Chad Bishop (@MrChadBishop) September 28, 2020
Wide Receivers / Tight End
The nature of the spread will dictate us seeing many lineups with four or more receivers on the field. Cam Johnson is the team’s most explosive threat, and he’ll line up in the slot. A former four-star recruit, Johnson has nine catches for 127 yards and a touchdown on the season. Lining up outside of Johnson is Chris Pierce Jr. Pierce Jr. has played in two games this season with 3 catches for 29 yards. On the opposite side of the field is Amir Abdur-Rahim who is a big target standing at 6-foot-four inches. The sophomore has a lot of potential on the outside and has caught eight passes already. Expect reps from James Bostic III and Devin Boddie Jr. as well.
The main tight end to watch will be Ben Bresnahan who has been Seal’s favorite target on the year and is the only one with double digit catches on the year. He has tallied 11 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Compete. Compete. Compete.
— Vanderbilt Football (@VandyFootball) October 30, 2020
The best presence on the offensive line will be left tackle Tyler Steele who started all last year at right tackle. The biggest question mark is at the right guard spot which is being occupied by Drew Birchmeier who is a redshirt senior. He has spent most of his career on the defensive line. Grant Miller and Connor Mignone bring some experience to the line as fifth-year seniors at center and left guard. Freshman Bradley Ashmore is starting at right tackle. The Commodores unit has allowed eight sacks in three games this season.
The big man up front is senior defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo. Dayo led the team in tackles for loss last season and is already off to a nice start to this campaign with 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Starting alongside him will be Cameron Tidd and Rashaan Wilkins Jr., who will be headlining the defensive tackle and nose tackle positions. Expect Daevion Davis to be a part of the game plan as well as he has played well in the rotation.
#Vanderbilt DL Dayo Odeyingbo is an interesting prospect I'm keeping an eye on. Probably projects best as a 5 tech, the 6'6", 276 pound senior made some solid plays Saturday against A&M. 2 TFLs and a sack.
-Sets edge, push and pull.
-Nice hand swat, nearly gets to Kellen Mond. pic.twitter.com/ZQ0Hlq4cpR
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) September 28, 2020
Dimitri Moore, the general of the Commodore defense, sets up at inside linebacker and will be all over the field. He was top 10 in tackles last year for the SEC and led the team in tackles last year. The senior has 17 tackles thus far in 2020 and will receive help from fifth-year senior Andre Mitzi on the outside. Mitzi led the team in sacks last season with 4.5. Anfernee Orji is the other inside linebacker to know as he is leading the team in tackles this season. Vanderbilt will look to have a four-linebacker package with Michael Owusu on the outside.
The team’s defensive back unit ranked last in the SEC last season and is a weak point for the roster. The team ranks sixth in the SEC in passing yards per completion. Coach Mason looked to Frank Coppert to be a leader of the position group at the beginning of the season; however, he isn’t on the depth chart for Saturday’s game which definitely hurts the secondary.
The other big name in the secondary was supposed to be Tae Daley, but he has left the program entering the transfer portal. The unit for Saturday will be composed of seniors DC Williams and Randle Haynie. Dashaun Jerkins will be the staple of the secondary as he starts at safety, but he will have a lot of ground to cover with the Ole Miss offense. Freshman Donovan Kaufman will be the other starting safety.
Vanderbilt Special Teams
Harrison Smith was the team’s starting punter to start the season, but he isn’t listed on the depth chart for the weekend which makes sophomore Jared Wheatley the punter. Pierson Cooke is the team’s place kicker, and he has had a tough go to start the season, going 1-4 thus far. To make matters worse, Smith was the holder and with him out, the team is using Cam Johnson as the new holder. Jayden Harrison and Devin Boddie Jr will be the return men on kickoffs while Cam Johnson will return punts.
Ole Miss really needs a game like this to get things back on track after three heartbreaking losses in a row. This Vanderbilt team so really depleted from injuries and COVID that there was worry whether they would even have enough scholarship players to play.
Look for Vanderbilt to try and slow the game down with their run game as much as possible to keep the Rebels’ explosive offense off the field. Ole Miss will definitely try to get things going quickly and put up a lot of points. If there ever was an opponent that you would pick for the Rebels to turn things around agains, it would be the Vanderbilt Commodores. They rank near the bottom in almost all the offensive and defensive metrics that matter. But, as has been the case many times, look for the Commodores to put up a fight against Ole Miss.
TJ Oxley is a current MBA student at Ole Miss after having earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Toledo. He currently covers college hoops and the NBA Draft for the Basketball Society as well as all things Ole Miss for The Rebel Walk.