"They're athletic," said BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman. "Then they have a lot of speed, and teams in that area attack with a lot of speed and athleticism, and so I would expect them to attack us with aggressive, athletic pass rushers with the ability to play man-to-man pass coverage."
The key to the Ole Miss defense will be in its ability to rush the passer. Big 6-foot-6-inch, 262-pound senior defensive end Wayne Dorsey – Scout's No. 1 JUCO transfer in 2010 – will join defensive end Kentrell Lockett, who leads all returning SEC players with 23.5 career tackles for a loss.
"The guy that I think is the most talented and the best prospect to oppose the most problems is their defensive end," Coach Doman said. "He's a veteran defensive end and his name is Lockett and he's returning this year. He was an All-SEC defensive end, and in that league that means he's a future NFL football player. That means he's a great pass rusher and I think he'll be difficult to block in that environment down there."
When it comes to the chess match up front, Lockett has played on both sides of the defensive line in order to create a mismatch. Senior Outland Trophy candidate Matt Reynolds will be tested early, as will junior tackle Braden Brown.
"Locket, he'll shift from side to side and go against both guys," said Coach Doman. "If you have a guy that can rush the quarterback like he can, it's difficult. TCU has posed such problems in the past like that because now you don't really have to blitz when you have guys like that who can have success in a pass rush."
Coach Doman is expecting Ole Miss to try and find a chink in the Cougar armor early to better defend against BYU's daunting pass attack.
"I think it will be a chess match early on in the game and I think they're going to try and see what kinds of success they're having pass rush-wise and see if they do need to blitz," Coach Doman said. "Then I think that will dictate their coverage behind them. I think for us, it will be just the same."
The key early will be how well BYU will be able to run the ball.
"Are we having success in the rush and do we have to change and adjust to that?" Coach Doman said. "I'm kind of excited to see what happens early on in the game and I'm sure they'll test us and we'll test them early on in the game and then we'll kind of gear into a match."
"They really like to come down and stop the run and can be pretty aggressive at times, so we're going to have to be balanced in what we are doing and really try and run the ball to set up our passing game," McKay Jacobson said.
Last season, Ole Miss was ranked 19th in the nation in tackles for a loss per game (6.83) and 20th in sacks per game (2.58). If Ole Miss can cause problems for the Cougars up front without having to blitz, it's going to be a long night for Coach Doman and his Cougar offense.
"We expect them to try and get after our quarterback with speed and athleticism with blitzes," Coach Doman said. "I'm sure they'll feel comfortable in matching up with us in some of those ways and that's my guess. We're preparing for everything, but in watching them and knowing a little bit about them, they're good. I expect it to be a real physical battle for our guys and they'll need to be sharp."
This year Ole Miss Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix has installed a 4-2-5 defense. Sophomore cornerback Charles Sawyer, who played in all 12 games with four starts last season, has been primarily practicing at the safety position this fall more than likely for that five defensive back look.
"Their cornerbacks are athletic, and this is going off of film from last year," Jacobson said. "It's one of those things where you just don't really know what to expect, but we expect to be ready with our game plan and expect to fly around.
"They do a lot of man on the outside but they also do different coverages. From what we've been told by our coaches is half the time they'll go man and then half the time they'll play zone. Last year they were really comfortable playing zone, but we'll see. We come prepared for a lot of the things that we've seen and will just be ready."
Last season, opponents scored 95 percent of the time in the red zone against the Ole Miss defense. Coach Doman has some insight into why that might have been the case.
"I think any defensive coordinator will tell you if we're able to run the football at least efficiently, I think at that point we'll have the advantage," Coach Doman said. "It will allow us to play fake it, and that's why we'll have the advantage, so any defensive coach out there who feels that they can't stop the run, or at least feels they can have some success in stopping the run, they're at a disadvantage.
"At BYU, we know how to throw the football and that's no secret to anybody. We know how to do that and do it well, so when teams are stopping our run, that's not good because now we have to revert to the pass game throughout the game and that's not good. We want to remain balanced in the pass game and cause them to feel like they have to stop the run, and if they feel they have to stop the run now, there's passing lanes out there. We would hate for them to stop the run game without having to put an extra guy down in the box."
The most experienced cornerback in the Ole Miss secondary is 5-foot-10-inch, 196-pound senior Marcus Temple, who has three years of experience but missed spring drills after undergoing sports hernia surgery.
"They had a cornerback that, I think, had an injury but hasn't been playing that much for them this year," Doman said. "He was a starter for them last year and I think that's where the J.C. transfer comes into play."
To help shore up the passing attack, Coach Nix brought in speedy JUCO transfer Wesley Pendleton.
"They've brought in some guys from the J.C. ranks, but they're fast and talented," Coach Doman said. "They do have some lack of experience and they have a safety that was kind of a role player last year that's a starter for them this year, but I think he's a good player.
While the Cougars will face a defense with some experience and talent, the message the team has been given is clear.
"We don't fear them but we certainly respect them," Coach Doman said. "That's the message our players are getting, and I think it's pretty well heartfelt. We do respect these guys, but we certainly don't fear them."