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Football Notebook: Stopping the Auburn offense and working on tackling

Austin McAfee/The Daily Mississippian


Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt met with media after practice Wednesday, as the Rebels continue to prepare for Saturday’s game at Auburn. Nutt said one of the keys for his team this week is preventing big plays.

“I just don’t like giving up long runs and giving up big plays especially when it is third and 13, that just breaks your back and you can’t do that.” Nutt said. “We are working hard on that. Everybody has a job responsibility to do, take care of your gap and go make a tackle. We have had been concentration on that but you have to do it in the game against the really good backs. “

The biggest threat to break those big plays Saturday against the Ole Miss defense is the one-two punch at running back in sophomore Michael Dyer and junior Onterio McCalebb. Leading the way on the ground is Dyer, who ranks third in the Southeastern Conference with 812 rushing yards and two touchdowns this season.

“He is one of the hardest running tailbacks in the league,” he said of Dyer. “He is built low to the ground. He is very strong below the waist; he is strong legged, breaks tackles and is faster than you think.”

Nutt has been equally as impressed with McCalebb, who has 387 rushing yards and two touchdowns this season.

“McCalebb is the guy that really sets up Dyer because you have to respect his speed,” he said. “You have to watch McCaleb getting the ball to the edge because he can run that sweep and hit the corner,” he said.

Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix has been impressed with what he has seen from Auburn’s offense.

“Auburns offense is very multiple and very explosive,” Nix said. “They do a great job of using formations. You have got to play very disciplined football. They are a run-first football team. They are a physical football team. It starts with their running backs and everybody else they put it in there.”

Auburn has played three quarterbacks over the course of the season. Junior Barrett Trotter started the first seven games of the season, sophomore Clint Moseley got the starting nod in last week’s 45-10 loss at LSU,  and freshman Kiehl Frazier is the wildcard and a dual-threat option at quarterback.

“Trotter and Mosley are very similar,” he said. “They run the same offense. The only time it changes is when Frazier comes in and you see a little bit more quarterback runs at that time.”

The passing game has struggled this year for Auburn, as the Tigers come in to Saturday’s game ranked 106th in the nation in passing (163.5 yards per game), Nix said the lack of explosiveness from the passing game is a result of injuries.

“I think what has happened is they have had some injuries at key positions which kept them from being as explosive in the passing game and they have had to rely on the running game a little bit more,” he said.

The Rebels have had trouble making tackles at times this season, which is something Nix said the players have been working on this week in practice.

“We are trying to emphasize discipline, being where you are supposed to be and when you are there make the tackle,” he said. “It’s not always a kill shot. I think that is where some of the guys make a mistake trying to make a SportsCenter, NFL-type hit, but actually the most important thing is getting the guy on the ground with the fewest amount of yards gained as possible.”

Mackey set to make first SEC road start

Randall Mackey made his first career start on the road at Ole Miss, and he will make his first SEC start on the road as well. Coach Nutt said Mackey will be as prepared as he can be going into the game.

“We are trying to get him prepared as best we can, you can never simulate 80 something thousand.” Nutt said. “This will be a real good test and experience for him. After his third start he has done a good job got to keep coming and have really good concentration next few days. You can see him getting better and getting more comfortable.”