The Ole Miss linebacking core came into the season as one of the club’s youngest and most inexperienced position groups. As expected, the group has been lacking at certain points throughout the season thus far. These linebackers are part of a defense that currently ranks last in the SEC in total defense, passing defense and rushing defense. However, this youthful group has certainly shown progress in recent weeks.
Last Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe, the group easily had its best performance thus far. Sophomore linebacker Mohamed Sanogo spoke about the defense’s success against the Warhawks.
“A lot of guys were fitting correctly whereas in the past they haven’t,” Sanogo said. “We were just clicking as a defense.”
Sanogo’s growth has been a highlight of the linebacking corps this season. Though he is only a sophomore, he is quickly becoming a leader for both the position group and for the defense as a whole.
“He’s really growing in his role,” linebacker’s coach Jon Sumrall said. “He’s trying to lead and help the younger guys in the room.”
After such a long stretch of subpar performances leading up to last Saturday, a change in the group’s mentality was necessary heading into the brunt of SEC play.
“Everybody was just tired of the small mistakes letting us down,” Sanogo said. “We wanted to step up.”
After a strong performance on Saturday, the group has a newfound sense of spirit about them.
“I feel confident in the defense we run,” Sanogo said.
Despite their performance against Louisiana-Monroe, Coach Sumrall remains cautious regarding the young bunch of linebackers.
“We are not anywhere near where I want us to be,” Sumrall said. “But, I have seen some growth.”
In regards to what he would like to see out of the defense going forward, Sumrall understands that it is an uphill battle for such an inexperienced group, but he feels that improvement should come sooner rather than later.
“(We need to) just continue to work and grow as a group. Each individual (needs to be) working to get better each day,” Sumrall said. “We’ve got to be disciplined all the time… I want to be better immediately.”
With the season halfway through, the Rebels are set to take on a gauntlet of six straight SEC opponents beginning this Saturday in Little Rock against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Arkansas’ offense is coming into this contest with a bit of confidence after putting up over 400 yards of offense against juggernaut Alabama.
“(Arkansas) found their stride last week against a really good defense,” Sumrall said. “They present some real challenges.”
After commenting on the Rebels struggles in recent years against the Razorbacks, Sanogo maintained his confidence and expressed his belief that this year will be different.
“We want to go over there, hit them in the mouth and say we’re Ole Miss,” Sanogo said. “That’s the plan.”