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Chalk Talk: Why Ole Miss' Offense is So Tough to Stop

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The Ole Miss Rebels have one of the most explosive and efficient offenses in the country. They are currently 11th in the nation in total offense and they average a little over seven yards per play. With talent all around, it's no wonder that the Rebels score like they do, but that's not the only reason to why this unit is successful. In today's Chalk Talk, we will look at two main reasons to why the Ole Miss Rebels are so good on offense.

The Art of the Packaged Play

Ole Miss’ simplicity lies in its complexity. They don’t have a whole lot of base concepts, but each concept is packaged, so any given play call could have a number of different outcomes. The Rebels create these possible outcomes by tagging passing routes onto their base run plays, as to give the quarterback multiple options to where the ball could go.

Let's look at the Rebels' tagged invert option as an example.

Invert bs Slants

This play has an invert option between the quarterback and the ball carrier with tagged slant routes on the twins side.  If the defense leaves the back side uncovered, the QB can abort the handoff and throw to the uncovered receiver.

invert throw

The actual concept is an invert option, meaning that the standard read option is inverted with the running back as the outside threat and the quarterback as the inside threat. If the unblocked defensive end widens with the handoff, the quarterback keeps the ball and takes it upfield.

invert keep

If the end squeezes, the quarterback hands the ball off to the running back.

invert give

What makes the offense really deadly is when the Rebels combine tempo with their packaged plays. In some cases, they are going so quickly that they don't leave time to change plays.

The most noteworthy example of this was when Ole Miss played Pitt in the Compass Bowl in 2013. There was one instance in the middle of the second quarter in which the Rebels called the same play on a five play scoring drive.

The play that they used was a tagged zone read, as shown below:


As you can see, the quarterback has multiple options at his disposal. He can throw to the isolated receiver on the left side, he can throw to the bubble screen on his right side, he could hand the ball off to the running back, or he could keep it himself and either run upfield or throw to the bubble.

Watch the drive in its entirety below; cut to :55 to skip the kick return.

The plays themselves are dangerous, but with tempo, they can almost be unstoppable.

Simple Reads Lead to Easy Completions

Rebel first-year quarterback Chad Kelly is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the SEC. With a dual threat ability and an exceptional arm, Kelly is first in the SEC in passing yards this season. However, he also is tied for second in the conference in interceptions with 12. Head coach Hugh Freeze and co-offensive coordinators Matt Luke and Dan Werner have been able to give Kelly simple passing concepts to keep these interceptions at a minimum. So far, Kelly has flourished in this offensive system. You'll see a number of elementary passing plays like stick, flood or four verts, usually paired with a play action or a bootleg.

The Rebel coaching staff is also smart enough to use strategies in an effort to keep Kelly out of unfavorable situations. As mentioned earlier, there are many simple passing concepts installed within the Rebels' run plays. Because of this, Kelly gets a good chunk of his passing yards off of what are technically run plays.Take this spacing route combination, for example:

Spacing Inside Zone

Here, the quarterback can throw to the spacing concept if the defense doesn't cover it properly:

spacing throw

But if the defense has three defenders on the trips side, the quarterback can hand the ball off to his running back:

spacing give

The combination of the inside zone and the spacing play gives each option an "out" in case the defense covers it up. The play's success lies on the quarterback's decision based on the coverage the defense shows him. If he feels that the defense is showing one look before the snap and moving to another look after the snap, he can even force the defense to show their hand by baiting the defenders into the rush, like he does here:

spacing keep throw

With easy route combinations like these, the quarterback only has to worry about his decision-making before the snap.

One true pass play that the Rebels love to use is a comeback-skinny post combination. This play is what is referred to as a hi-lo combination, meaning that the play has one receiver going deep and one at the intermediate or short level. If the defense plays off, or if the cornerback on the outside runs with the deep route, the quarterback targets the comeback.

smash curl

If the coverage spins to a cover one look, or the inside receiver runs past his defender, the quarterback goes deep to the skinny post.

smash post

A two-man concept like this is both effective and easy ; all the quarterback has to do is read the twins side of the defense and react accordingly. When Kelly is put into these favorable situations, he can carve up a defense. It doesn't hurt to have some of the nation's most talented receivers in Quincy Adeboyejo and Laquon Treadwell as well.

These two general strategies are not the only reasons why the Rebels are as good as they are. There are many components that feed into their success -- way too many to cover in one article. They also change their offense from week to week, adding in new wrinkles and formations for each game. The Cowboys' defense is certainly better than they get credit for, but they are going to have to play their best if they want to quiet this Rebel offense.

That was today's Chalk Talk article -- be sure to voice your opinions in the comments below!