OXFORD — For the second week in a row, Ole Miss football’s offense struggled through injuries and underperformance in a Saturday scrimmage.
The Rebels moved their third and final Saturday scrimmage of the spring before next week’s Grove Bowl indoors Saturday, but the controlled conditions did nothing to help Ole Miss’ offense. Scrimmaging without running back Zach Evans, receivers Jonathan Mingo and Jordan Watkins and tight end Michael Trigg, the first-team offense failed to score a touchdown as turnovers and miscues once again hampered the day.
Here are some of the Clarion Ledger’s observations from Saturday’s scrimmage.
No skill guys, big problems
It’s never a good sign when the same receivers are getting first-team, second-team and third-string snaps in one scrimmage. That’s the situation Ole Miss found itself in without Mingo, Watkins, Jalen Knox or Qua Davis available.
Quarterbacks Luke Altmyer and Jaxson Dart struggled to keep rhythm with their receivers struggling to get open. The receivers didn’t do Altmyer and Dart any favors either when it came to dropping passes. Dannis Jackson dropped a would-be touchdown from Altmyer and Dart threw multiple catchable balls over the middle that receivers either dropped outright or had fall out of their hands after a defender made contact.
Without Evans, the running backs looked mostly fine. Junior Kentrel Bullock started, but SMU transfer Ulysses Bentley and freshman Quinshon Judkins also looked good in first- and second-team reps. Judkins in particular has continued to stand out in his chances to run against the Rebels’ best defenders.
Altmyer and Dart both led drives inside the 10-yard line and neither led to touchdowns. Altmyer set up the scoring chance with a long completion to JJ Henry, but after three runs were stuffed at the line of scrimmage, Altmyer found Jackson open – but Jackson dropped the pass. Dart drove his unit inside the 10-yard line, but the defense stood strong three plays in a row to force a field goal from Land Gebhart.
The biggest mistake probably came from Dart. After an errant snap bounced outside the pocket, Dart rolled to his right to recover. Instead of falling on the ball for a loss, Dart tried to throw it away while diving but ended up tossing the ball right at safety A.J. Finley, who returned the interception almost 80 yards.
Scrimmage standout: Kyndrich Breedlove
Sophomore cornerback Kyndrich Breedlove made an impression in possessions with the first-team defense. He ended Dart’s first drive with a crucial pass breakup over the middle and later in the scrimmage intercepted a pass where he undercut a receiver and dove in front of him for the turnover.
Ole Miss’ defensive backfield is loaded with bodies this year. Finley, Otis Reese, Ladarius Tennison and Isheem Young are all veterans at safety, and the cornerback room is stacked with experience from Miles Battle, Deantre Prince, Tysheem Johnson and Trey Washington. But Breedlove has turned heads this spring and is earning reps in the first-team rotation. If he keeps making plays, he’ll remain in that rotation and provide even more depth in a secondary that needs it.
Tight end Casey Kelly returned from injury. He missed last week’s scrimmage.
Defensive lineman Tywone Malone dressed out and participated. Malone has played baseball all spring instead of practicing with the football team. Since he didn’t make the trip to Columbia, S.C., with the Rebels baseball team this weekend, he was available and took a few reps with the third team defense.
The Rebels’ offense isn’t clicking on the scoreboard yet, but the tempo is moving as quickly as coach Lane Kiffin likes. As Ole Miss fans and the Rebels’ rivals grew accustomed to last fall, defenders took a few breathers against tempo, with defensive linemen going to the ground with cramps and minor injuries trying to keep up with (or slow down) the Rebels’ offensive attack.
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.