As the Rebels’ first test of the season draws closer, the Ole Miss football team is putting in work to succeed on the gridiron.
The Ole Miss defense will face quite the challenge when facing the Red Raiders’ offense, which finished the 2017 season at No. 9 in the nation for passing yards per game and No. 16 in the nation for total yards per game. However, head coach Matt Luke said he likes where the Rebel defense is and feels that his players are up to the challenge.
“I think we’re deeper. We have more guys that can contribute that are pushing for playing time,” Luke said. “I think we’re a little bit faster and … (our) knowledge is better.”
He also mentioned that the Rebels’ communication is better this year, but he wants to see how the defense performs in a game. When asked about the injuries to the secondary, Luke said he felt good about his players and that cornerback may be one of the deepest positions on the roster.
Coach Luke addressed the defensive line regarding the depth chart and rotations.
“I think it’ll be a committee. You’ll have starters, and everybody makes a big deal about that,” Luke said. “But on the defensive line you have to roll people through, and you have to do that to stay fresh.”
Coach Luke isn’t the only person who’s been impressed by what he has seen from the defense throughout camp. Wide receiver D.K. Metcalf gave the defense plenty of praise, talking about how well the defense practices against one of the top offenses in the country.
“They’re doing well against us every day, so I just can’t wait until they play against Texas Tech,” Metcalf said.
Defensive tackle Benito Jones said he feels good about the way camp has gone so far and said that the rotation on the D-line is looking strong. Jones finished the 2017 season with 18 solo tackles, 1.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss.
“We just have to lock in and take what they give us,” Jones said. “Stop the run and win.”
This dedicated effort to stopping the run means that the secondary will need to pick up the slack in coverage. Defensive back Javien Hamilton reiterated Luke’s point about the secondary when he was asked about the defensive backs being left on islands with such a heavy emphasis on stopping the run this season.
“(In 2017) we played a lot of man-to-man on the back end, so it shouldn’t be a lot of pressure, even though (Luke) is going to load the box a little bit more to stop the run,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got great guys in that DB room.”