It’s one in, one out for the Ole Miss defensive coaching staff.
Linebackers coach Jon Sumrall is reportedly leaving Ole Miss to return to his alma mater, Kentucky. Sumrall spent three seasons at Troy and Tulane before being hired at Ole Miss last season. He coached Mohamed Sanogo, who finished fourth in the SEC in tackles as a sophomore.
Sumrall played middle linebacker at Kentucky and led the Wildcats with 72 tackles in his senior season, in 2005.
While the loss of Sumrall will be felt, Ole Miss could be replacing him with a familiar face with plenty of experience.
Former Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix will return to Oxford and join his brother, Derrick, on the coaching staff, according to multiple reports that first surfaced on Monday. Ole Miss has not officially announced the hire, but Virginia Tech confirmed the report on Monday morning with a tweet including a statement from head coach Justin Fuente.
“We appreciate the contributions that Tyrone Nix has made to our program at Virginia Tech. Our staff wishes Coach Nix and his family the very best as he returns to the state of Mississippi, a place where his family owns very deep ties,” Fuente said in the statement. “I certainly understand his desire to return to a place he considers home as well as the opportunity to once again coach with his brother at Ole Miss.”
Tyrone Nix spent one season in Blacksburg, Virginia, serving as the safeties coach for the Hokies in 2018. Before that, he worked under Houston Nutt as Ole Miss’s assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and linebacker coach from 2008-11. His other stops include his alma mater Southern Miss, South Carolina, Middle Tennessee and Texas A&M.
In his first season as the Ole Miss defensive coordinator, Tyrone Nix had the defense ranked 20th in points per game (19.0), 19th in yards per game (307.2), and 4th in rushing yards per game (85.5) behind standouts Peria Jerry and Greg Hardy. The team went on to go 8-4 and beat Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. The next year, after Tyrone Nix was promoted to assistant head coach, the team was 15th in points per game and 20th in yards per game.
He was dismissed along with Nutt in 2011 when Hugh Freeze took over.
Tyrone Nix’s brother, Derrick Nix, has served as the running backs coach for the Rebels since 2009 and has coached some of the most productive rushers in Ole Miss history, including Dexter McCluster, Brandon Bolden and Jeff Scott.
Tyrone Nix will help out on the other side of the ball, as he’s likely to serve specifically as the outside linebacker coach. With the departure of Wesley McGriff and the hire of Mike MacIntyre as the new defensive coordinator, the Rebels will switch from the 4-3 defense to a scheme based around the 3-4.
Ole Miss let go of co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Jason Jones last week after employing him for six years. Since the new defensive coordinator, MacIntyre, has a background with coaching defensive backs, he’ll likely take over those duties while Tyrone Nix fills Sumrall’s place to convert some of the current backers and defensive ends to more of a stand-up pass-rushing role.
The Ole Miss defense is just one of the many question marks in Oxford for the 2019 season, and it was the overwhelming weakness a season ago. The Landshark defense went hungry last season, ranked No. 121 out of 129 in total defense in the FBS. The Rebels allowed 36.2 points, 261.7 passing yards and 220.7 rushing yards per game in 2018.
Ole Miss now has one more spot on its defensive staff and will look to bring in a coach that can help revive a defense that was once so dominant.