/Rodriguez has shown before he knows what to do with speed like that of Plumlee, Ealy

Rodriguez has shown before he knows what to do with speed like that of Plumlee, Ealy

Rodriguez’s Mountaineers, No. Rodriguez’s Mountaineers, ranked No. 9 in the country, were playing a team from Mississippi State that won eight games, beat Alabama and Auburn, then won the Liberty Bowl. My flight arrived late into West Virginia so I arrived at the press box right as the game began. Here’s what I clearly remember: West Virginia led 7 to 0. I couldn’t get my computer out my backpack. Before the computer started, the Mountaineers were leading 14-0. They led 21-0 before State scored a first down. After one quarter, they led 28-0. Rodriguez hit the brakes quickly and the gold-eyed Mountaineers cruised to victory with a 38-13 win. They would win No. 3 Oklahoma in Fiesta Bowl. West Virginia’s speed was amazing, especially the running back Steve Slaton and quarterback Pat White. It seemed like every play started with White handing off to Slaton, or fake handoffs, and then White running or throwing. Before State’s defense could determine whether White or Slaton held the ball, the winner was off to the races. Why mention that game now? This particular game was brought up by Ole Miss’s win over Alabama at Tuscaloosa on Saturday. Bama won with relative ease, winning 58-31. However, Rodriguez’s offense managed 476 yards total offense. I was reminded of White and Slaton 12 years ago by the speed of Ole Miss’s quarterback John Rhys Plumlee, and Jerrion Ealy as running back. If you ask me, Plumlee & Ealy are Ole Miss’s hope for the future. The defense of the Rebels needs to be improved. They need to improve their speed in other positions. You can still build on speed and talent such as that of Plumlee or Ealy. These are good signs for the Ole Miss football’s future. Rodriguez mentioned this hypothesis in a Tuesday afternoon phone interview. Rodriguez stated, “Yeah. Well, I certainly hope so.” “Pat, Stevie, were so fast and they played very fast. This is one thing that we can be optimistic about. Plumlee, Ealy and their teammates are very fast and are already playing well as freshmen. They will only get faster as they mature and grow. “We need to improve our speed around the perimeter. There are some, and there will be more in the next recruiting class. We need to recruit some “hold-your-breath speed” guys outside. Speed at the quarterback position in these spread offenses adds an extra dimension that gives defensive coordinators nightmares. It was 12 years ago that Ellis Johnson, State’s defensive coach, spoke about exactly that. Johnson stated that he had coached against SEC team’s with West Virginia’s team speed and not White’s quarterback speed. Johnson stated that the difference is that they have an experienced quarterback. You can either load the box with a running back or double that of a wide receiver. It’s another level when you have a quarterback that can run like that. It’s a game changer.” Ole Miss now has such a quarterback. Plumlee’s 40-yard dash time was just under 4.4 seconds. Plumlee clearly has the speed. But what about the arm? Pat White could also throw it. Rodriguez stated that they are “very similar.” Rodriguez said that John Rhys was more skilled in high school throwing and was probably more proficient as a freshman, but they share a similar arm strength. Their leadership qualities are another similarity. Both are leaders. Both of them just love to play ball.” Rodriguez was offered the Ole Miss job after someone showed him footage of Plumlee. Plumlee had previously resigned from his Georgia commitment. Rodriguez stated, “I told them straight away that that’s what we need in our offense.” Rodriguez was asked to make a comparison between Ealy and Slaton who both made All-America teams at West Virginia. Rodriguez stated that Slaton was likely a bit faster than Ealy, despite Rodriguez’s belief. He was, in fact, one of the most fast college football players. Ealy is fast, but he’s also very skilled at running routes and catching the balls. Rodriguez stated that his Ole Miss offensive system was similar to the one he used in West Virginia, with some tweaks and adjustments. One thing has not changed. Speed is key. Ealy and Plumlee both have it.