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.
THE FRONT FOUR
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 GAME PLAN
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.
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