The Ole Miss Defense is Decimated; Brigham Young Cougars Offense Should be licking its chops

The Brigham Young Cougars are going to face an Ole Miss defense this Saturday that has been decimated from a year ago. Jake Heaps and company should be licking their chops.

I was doing prep for the game preview that will be posted Friday, and I started noticing some favorable facts about the Ole Miss defense. The more I looked at it the more I found. There was way to much to cram into the game preview, and withholding such exciting information from you--the readers--wouldn't be right. I knew the Ole Miss defense had to be the subject of an individual post.

Ole Miss lost four of its top five leading tacklers from a year ago. The one returning player is Damien Jackson the free safety. It is never a good thing if the free safety is one of the team’s leading tacklers. If the Ole Miss free safety is making a lot of tackles Saturday, then the BYU offense is rolling up a lot of yards.

Jackson, however, has lost his starting job to Charles Sawyer. Sawyer was the number six tackler from a year ago. DT Shackelford was the seventh leading tackler for Ole Miss in 2010. Tragically, he suffered an injury to his ACL during spring and will not be playing this year. Only one of the seven leading tacklers from a year ago will start against BYU on Saturday, and that one was number six.

Leading tackler number eight is another defensive back: cornerback Marcus Temple. (More big plays!) Number nine is Joel Knight. He started seven games last year, but will be the backup WLB on Saturday.

Ole Miss defensive ends started a total of seven games last year. Kentrell Lockett, however, started every game as a freshman and sophomore. He missed most of last year with a torn ACL.

The two men in the middle have very little experience. Second team All-SEC Jerrell Powe will be replaced with Uriah Grant. Grant is new to the program after hopping from West Virginia to Eastern Kentucky to Junior College. The two back ups at nose guard and defensive tackle are redshirt freshmen, which means they have zero college football game experience.

The weather conditions for this game make it essential that defensive linemen rotate. Therefore, these two freshmen will see playing time.

Ole Miss lost all three linebackers from a year ago, including another second team All-SEC player. Middle linebacker Mike Marry started one game last year as a freshman. He is backed up by two freshmen.

Ralph Williams, a redshirt freshman, will start at WLB, and a converted JC transfer defensive back Aaron Garbutt will start at SLB.

Overall, very little playing experience and chemistry for this unit. They seem very susceptible to a strong, balanced offense.

Ole Miss was atrocious last year against the pass. The coaching staff went to work to fix that. They moved two cornerbacks to each of the safety positions. It will be interesting to see how Frank Crawford, listed at 185 pounds, does as a strong safety. They also brought in a JC transfer Wesley Pendleton to help at cornerback. Only Marcus Temple from last year’s starters is first on the depth chart this year.

Like the BYU secondary, this group is very unproven. The Ole Miss coaches did the best the could. Confidence in Mississippi isn't high that they will do well on the field. After all, the Ole Miss offense isn't one that would test them in practice everyday.

The Ole Miss defense is in trouble this year. The dearth of experience is severe, and the consequences of inexperience are magnified in a season opening game. Way too many freshmen are being relied on to play key roles. It is very hard to expect that this unit, in game one, will be any better than the 2010 defense that gave up 35.2 points and 399 yards per game last year. In fact, they might be even worse.

BYU’s philosophy should be to run right at the middle of the Ole Miss defensive line. That is where they are inexperienced. The BYU offensive line should be able to push around these guys all game long. Wear them out so those freshman back ups have to play significantly. Take advantage of the new linebackers. Force them to play assignment sound football, and not just “get by” on talent.

With the run game unstoppable, the BYU passing game will be in the perfect position to erupt. The secondary will be forced to play man. Cody Hoffman, Ross Apo, and the tight ends have a significant size advantage (only Crawford is listed at 6 feet tall). Use the slot to isolate J.J. Di Luigi or McKay Jacobson with the freshman linebacker. Confuse the secondary. Don’t let them get any confidence that they can be a better pass defense this year.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at


  1. the ole miss offense that you make fun of averaged 30 points a game last year. ole miss fans would actually be more concerned if the players from last year were still here. new faces, new talent. hope the byu team comes into oxford with this no respect, this is a cakewalk type attitude, as most cougar reporters think it will be.

  2. Woo hoo. I'm glad you guys are over confident. Saturday will be a rude awakening for you. Hotty Toddy.

  3. second grade website, second grade journalism...Experience is not everything. You so soon forget Mr. Heaps was "only a freshman" last year as well. This was a BYU Rah Rah story. Sounds like a 10yr old sitting in a tree house trying to talk football.

    Hotty Toddy

  4. I agree. This is a second grade writing level blog with an even greater deficiency in football knowledge. Mississippi is far better than what you're reading on your tea leaves.

  5. Welcome Rebels! Make sure you come back Friday for the game preview. That will make you feel better about how I view your team. You're reading too much into this. Ole Miss will get a much fairer or favorable assessment.

    Over confident? No way. Just laying out the facts.

    "Experience is not everything." True, but it does make a difference. In a season opening game, I would take an experienced team that will execute well over a more talented team.

    The Ole Miss offense I am referring to is the one that has a run first philosophy and averaged less than 200 yards passing per game in 2010. I don't expect the DBs have been tested very much in practice with the passing game.

    "ole miss fans would actually be more concerned if the players from last year were still here." I thought about that and almost included something to the effect of "in this case, wholesale changes might be better considering the problems Ole Miss had last year."

    "BYU Rah Rah story." Of course. This is a BYU football site. What would I find on the Ole Miss sites? I am guessing some Ole Miss rah rah stuff.

    Anyways, come back Friday for the game preview. I think you will find it more to your liking, and no your comments haven't changed what I was going to write.

  6. A couple of things, Charles Sawyer is our best DB and was moved to safety to defend the pass better. Clearly we have confidence in the other 2 corners otherwise we wouldn't have moved our best corner to safety. We just hired a new DB coach that will make a positive impact as well.

    I'm pretty happy with our DB's however I'm worried at LB. We are clearly very very young at LB. There position isn't as important as the db's though since we are playing BYU. In the SEC we play against teams that can really run the ball. Last year we pretty much stopped Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. Even with some new players we shouldn't have a problem stopping the run.

    BYU will be able to score points by the short passing game, and if Ole Miss can hang with them and not turn the ball over Ole Miss should win. It should be extremely close, but look for an Ole Miss freshman to win the game, Donte Moncrief, Nickolas Brassell, or Collins Moore. Speed kills and Ole Miss has it.

  7. I got that impression about the DBs. Could be the best unit on D. Still lots of questions going into the opener.

    Ole Miss will need one of the freshmen to step up to win.

  8. I know that last year BYU finished on a bit of a roll, but the last 6 games were against teams that I would very much hope Ole Miss would beat this season. There were 2 very good teams on your schedule (TCU and FSU), but you lost badly to both. Heaps was sacked a combined 11 times in those games and only threw for just over 200 yards combined. It goes with saying that Ole Miss will not be as good as FSU or TCU. However, I think the Rebs will be good enough to play a close game. We shall see.
    Ole Miss made 3 coaching changes(OC/QBs, WRs, and Secondary) in the offseason. The coaching of the WRs and Secondary had nowhere to go but up. Major upgrade on both. Wide Receivers (coached by Gunter Brewer from Ok State) are now running good routes and are learning to fight for position and to fight for the ball. Last year secondary was lost and slow. Keith Burns is the new coach is doing a great job getting them up SEC standards. I am cautiously optimistic that Ole Miss will have the single coverage it takes for effective blitzing. Last year, that was NOT the case.
    The SEC West was a tough place to be last year. Just plain brutal. The other 5 teams finished in the Top 20. BYU would likely have lost to them all. Three of the other SEC West teams have won National Championships in the last 5 years. SEC East teams won the other 2. Yes, Ole Miss fell apart last year. However, the 2 previous years, Ole Miss won back to back Cotton Bowls.
    Last year’s recruiting class may end up being the best in many, many years. The cream of the crop was at wide receiver and corner/safety. Those were the 2 greatest areas on need. The class was a mix of talented freshmen and JUCOs with an emphasis on speed. Question is, how much impact will they have this year? We will find out Saturday.
    I expect a close game that could go either way. For any BYU fans attending the game, I hope you have a wonderful visit to Oxford! It is a truly special place.

  9. Ole Miss is a much better team than you give them credit for. I assume your comprehensive preview will account for that. Because this is the first game of the season, a lot could go wrong for both teams. Jake Heaps is also not exactly proven, although certainly more so than the Ole Miss QBs. Finally, Ole Miss has athleticism and speed and for that reason alone, is always a dangerous team (of the type that BYU has not historically fared well against).

  10. Huge BYU fan here, but you seriously underestimate the Rebels. There defensive line, especially the ends, will be very good. Locket us a 322 lb monster of an end. Locket vs Reynolds could be one of the best linemen battles you see all year.

    Honestly, one of the big reasons 'Ole Miss struggled so much last year was the psycological effect of the Jacksonville St game. If the Rebels had won that one, they probably finish 7-5 instead of 4-8.

    I expect BYU to win and win by double didgits, but this is by no means a cake walk. The Rebels may be young in some areas, but you can not argue against the level of talent there.


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