Rebel Roll Call: Stopping the run a focus for the D-line

Posted on Aug 27 2018 - 5:50am by Chance Robertson

Victor Evans tackles defensive back Trevon Diggs during the game against Alabama on Sept. 30, 2017. Alabama won 66-3. Photo by Marlee Crawford

The 2018 football season is almost here, and the Ole Miss Rebels are looking to build upon last season’s 6-6 record and improve their 3-5 SEC record.

The Rebel defense will need to improve its points allowed this season, which ranked 110th in the FBS for the 2017 season, according to Sports Reference. Defending against the run will certainly be a point of emphasis this season, as the Rebels conceded over 200 rushing yards per game in 2017. The D-line will be instrumental in improving that area.

“We’ve been working on a lot of team things we need to fix as a unit and getting that extra work in,” defensive end Victor Evans said. “It’s been a good summer.”

Freddie Roach is in his second year in Oxford as the D-line coach, and his group will need to replace the production of Breeland Speaks and Marquis Haynes, who were both taken in this year’s NFL Draft.

“It’s really up to us,” Evans said. “The only people who can beat our defense is our defense. As soon as we realize we’re the only ones that can stop us, we’re good.”

The interior of the D-line brings back veteran Josiah Coatney, who finished the 2017 season with 65 total tackles and eight tackles for loss. Another returning veteran is defensive tackle Benito Jones, who is in his third season with the Rebels. Jones had 29 tackles with 7.5 tackles for loss for Ole Miss in 2017.

Redshirt junior Austrian Robinson is also returning to help Roach’s unit. Robinson recorded 29 total tackles for Ole Miss over 10 games played last season. Senior Ross Donelly is also returning after recording 31 total career tackles in 25 games played during in his last three seasons as defensive tackle for the Rebels.

Rounding out the defensive tackles are redshirt senior Jordan Hebert, freshman K.D. Hill, freshman Sincere David and freshman Quentin Bivens, who will likely be competing for playing time throughout the season.

On the outside, the Rebel defensive ends will feature a balance of upper and lower classmen who look to have a positive impact on the team.

Seniors Markel Winters and Victor Evans have 38 games played between the two of them heading into this year. Winters made his Ole Miss debut in the 2017 season after transferring from Jones County Junior College, and Roach will need him to step up his play for the D-line to be more effective. Evans missed the majority of last season due to injury but played in 22 games in his first two seasons with the Rebels. He has 48 total career tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss.

“I tore my meniscus last year, but I’m back to 100 percent,” Evans said. “I’ve been trying to stick with the team (through the injury) as much as possible.”

Ryder Anderson and Brenden Williams made their Rebel debuts in 2017, and both are expected to take on expanded roles in the upcoming season. Anderson played in 11 games for Ole Miss as a freshman in 2017, making nine total tackles. Williams played in nine games as a sophomore during the 2017 season after transferring from Northeast Mississippi Community College.

Redshirt freshman Charles Wiley played in nine games in the 2017 season, and redshirt freshman Amani Johnson and sophomore Ty Reyes will return for their second year with the team. Qaadir Sheppard also returns for his junior year after appearing in only three games during the 2017 season.

“I’m excited,” Evans said. “I’m just ready to get back out there with my team.”