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For Ole Miss, changes are necessary

Expectations have changed for Ole Miss ever since head coach Hugh Freeze arrived on campus.

Freeze inherited a program that was in shambles in 2011, as Houston Nutt left Oxford and the Ole Miss football program in disarray, finishing the 2011 campaign with a 2-10 record. Freeze arrived in Oxford in December of 2011 and changed the culture of the program as soon as he arrived.

Dylan Rubino

Dylan Rubino

Freeze led Ole Miss to four bowl games in his first four years, including two consecutive New Year’s Six bowl games in 2014 and 2015. After a dominating win in the Sugar Bowl, expectations were at an all-time high entering the 2016 season, but expectations change.

The Rebels had a disaster 2016 season, finishing the regular season 5-7, capped off with a blowout loss to in-state rival Mississippi State at home 55-20. Former defensive coordinator Dave Wommack announced his retirement after the Egg Bowl and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Dan Werner was fired last Friday along with Associate A.D. Barney Farrar.

Why the sudden changes at the two most critical non-head coaching positions on the football staff? The answer is simple. Expectations have changed and changes are needed.

Rebel fans have been clamoring for changes ever since the three-game losing streak to Arkansas, LSU and Auburn. They got their wish and the coaching search for a new offensive and defensive coordinator is still ongoing.

The Rebel nation wanted heads to roll after the 2016 season and now they get sick at the sight of those heads rolling.

Let’s take a look at the numbers why changes are necessary not only on the defensive side of the ball, but on offense as well.

If there were a worse word than atrocious, I would use that word to describe the 2016 Ole Miss defense. It’s quite outstanding. The “landsharks” ranked 110th out of 128 teams in total defense, giving up 6.18 yards per play and gave up an average of 461.3 yards per game to opposing offenses. That equates to giving 5535 yards of offense for the 2016 season and 50 touchdowns. The rush defense ranked 120th in the nation, giving up 5.41 yards per attempt and just over 246 yards per game on the ground. Easy to say, this is not a formula for winning football games.

It was a head-scratcher last Friday when Freeze decided to let Werner go and start completely new on both sides of the football.

The Ole Miss offense ranked 31st in total offense, averaging 6.16 yards per play and just over 464 yards of offense per game. The passing offense ranked 13th in the nation, averaging 7.82 yards per attempt and almost 315 passing yards per game through the air. Surely this means the quarterback play and offense has improved with Werner. Why let him go? I’ll show you why.

The reality is, the offense became stagnant in the second half of football games. The Ole Miss offense scored 20 or more points in the first half in 10 of the 12 games played this season. The only two games where this didn’t happen was against Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. In the second half, the Ole Miss offense scored more than 10 points only four times. This was against Alabama, Georgia, Memphis and Texas A&M. The offense was stuck in quicksand in the second half this season and the defense couldn’t get stops to give the ball back to the offense.

This is not how you win football games and a change of culture is needed.

It’s been a long time since that 2-10 season in 2011. The football program has now changed and after one bad season, the coaching staff is going through a major overhaul. It’s not only a move that is needed, but also one that is necessary to keep the new winning tradition alive and fighting for relevancy in the SEC.

There are many names being thrown out there for offensive and defensive coordinator, but no matter who it is, they’ll have their work cut out for them.

Let’s hope Ole Miss will make the right decision for both coordinator positions and not wasting it like burning the redshirt off Shea Patterson.

Sports editor Dylan Rubino can be reached at dylan.rubino@dailyleader.com.