The Ole Miss defense has been able to show significant improvement these last few weeks despite a rocky and disappointing start.
In the first three games against Florida, Kentucky and Alabama, the Rebel defense faced some of the most talented offenses in college football and racked up an average of 641 yards of total offense per game.
It wasn’t the start that fans were hoping for — especially after the Ole Miss offense started the season by dominating tough opponents.
Following the season opener against Florida, head coach Lane Kiffin didn’t hold back his feelings about the lack of defense on the field.
“There are not a lot of positives to find there,” Kiffin said in a press conference. “We did almost stop them on a third down, but then we roughed the passer, so I was kind of excited there for a second.”
After going three weeks into the season with no positive tests, Ole Miss football announced that there were COVID-19 “issues” among the team with positive tests and contact tracing. While it is unclear how many players have had the virus, the issues seem to have mostly affected the defense.
Many key defensive players have been out, including Deane Leonard, Jakorey Hawkins and Tariqious Tisdale. If they have been out due to COVID-19 protocols, they should be awaiting their return this week against Vanderbilt.
Kiffin announced that veteran defensive back Jaylon Jones is out for the year with an upper-body injury. He has already undergone surgery and will not be able to return this season.
Jones was the recipient of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award, which is awarded to an upperclassman player who embodies the spirit of Ole Miss legend Chucky Mullins through grit and perseverance. This will not be the first time that Jones has suffered a season-ending injury. In the first game of the 2018 season, Jones tore his ACL and was sidelined for the rest of the year.
With a young defense, losing a veteran player is never a good thing. However, in these past two weeks, the Rebels have been able to play better, showing significant defensive improvement against Arkansas and Auburn.
Ole Miss held the Razorbacks to 394 yards of offense and forced two turnovers in pivotal moments of the game.Auburn showed more dominance against Ole Miss, but there was still a lot of improvement by the defense with 462 yards.
With the Rebels heading to Nashville this week to take on Vanderbilt, it will be critically important for them to find their rhythm and ensure that they get the win.