Heaps talks Ole Miss defense

With a year under his belt, sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps expects his visit down to Oxford to be memorable one. Playing a SEC team has been a dream for the Cougar signal caller. Total Blue Sports gives a scouting report on what Heaps and the Cougar offense can expect to see from the Ole Miss defense.

In five days, BYU will lock horns against SEC foe Ole Miss as the Cougars launch their program into independence.

"This game is a huge statement game for us, having an opportunity for us to go out there the first game into SEC country," Heaps said. "We have a huge chip on our shoulders and have a lot to prove, so this is a huge game for us, and for Ole Miss this is a huge game for them with a lot to prove as well."

Ole Miss will face a daunting air attack from a program that virtually developed the modern day passing attack. The Cougars expect to see different defensive looks from the Ole Miss defense.

"One is more of a run-stopping defense in comparison to the other," Heaps said. "The difference, really, in a 4-3-4 defense in comparison to a 4-2 is that they've taken an outside linebacker out and put a safety in. With that alignment they feel confident in that they can stop the run with a little more help with coverage.

"The 4-2 will be their nickel package and they're going to throw that out there when we give them multiple-receiver looks. It gives them that opportunity for them to be more dynamic as far as what they're doing."

The projected starting front seven for Ole Miss are big, fast and very athletic.

Defensive ends

Kentrell Lockett, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA due to injuries, will start. The 6-foot-5-inch, 248-pound Lockett leads all returning SEC players in career tackles for a loss with 23.5. He will be starting with Gerald Rivers backing him up.

Wayne Dorsey will play on the other side of Lockett and comes in at 6 feet 6 inches and 262 pounds. Dorsey played in all 12 games with four starts last season and will be backed up by Cameron Whigham.

Defensive tackles

Justin Smith, a 6-foot-3-inch, 298-pound senior, should get the starting nod. Smith saw action in seven games last season and recorded two tackles for a loss. Gilbert Pena will back him up.

Uriah Grant, a 6-foot-1-inch, 280-pound tackle, should get the starting nod next to Smith on the inside. Grant, who is a junior college transfer, will start with Bryon Bennett backing him up.

"They really emphasize in stopping the run," Heaps said. "They get into some defensive looks that makes it tough to run the football against those guys, but we're going to give our guys enough looks to hopefully wear them down. It's a matter of how their athletes go against our execution, so we're excited and Ole Miss is a great football team and we expect them to put up a huge fight."

Making sure BYU's offensive line can protect against a four- or five-man rush will be crucial for the Cougars if they are to attack the Rebels' young secondary.

"I'm confident in [our offensive line] and it's something that I think we'll be okay," said Heaps. "I think we'll be able to handle it. They have a great front seven and have some playmakers that make a lot of plays out there and they're impressive to watch on film.

"At the end of the day, we have to execute every single play. If our execution is on key, then I think it's going to be a good day for BYU, but we have to prepare like crazy this week. School starts this week so we have to have guys focused and ready to go."

The Rebel blitz

The Cougars will need to corral SEC superstar defensive end Kentrell Lockett and the four-man front of Ole Miss. Although the Ole Miss defense was ranked 81st overall last year, the Rebels were in the top 20 in the nation in sacks and tackles for a loss.

"They blitz a lot but they don't particularly like to bring the house," Heaps said. "When you mention a blitz, if we have guys to protect, and they're bringing five guys, that's not considered a blitz. But if they're bringing more than five guys, like six, and once in a while a seventh, then we just have to be prepared for it at certain times during the game. Our running backs do a great job of pass protection, and I have absolute confidence in those guys and feel good heading into this game."

Will linebackers

Joel Night will get the starting nod with Keith Lewis backing him up.

Middle linebackers

Mike Marry, a sophomore linebacker, played in 10 games last year. Marry should get the starting nod with Ralph Williams and C.J. Johnson in the rotation.

Sam linebackers

Converted from safety, Damien Jackson will get the starting nod at the field side linebacker position with Aaron Garbutt backing him up.

Jackson's speed and athleticism – he was one of the top tacklers on the Ole Miss defense last year – will be something the Cougars will have to account for.

"They can blitz guys off the edge, they can just play straight-up man-to-man and do a lot of different things out of it," said Heaps. "As an offense preparing against these guys, we feel confident. In the game plan we feel confident and we're preparing for what we'll see out there. There's not an earth-shattering difference in what we'll see from a 4-2-5 and a 4-3-4 defense."


One of the cornerbacks that will be looking to lock down BYU's receivers is Marcus Temple, who missed spring camp due to undergoing sports hernia surgery. He was one of five Rebel players to start all 12 games in 2010. He'll be followed by Senquez Golson.

Wesley Pendleton will man the other side and is a junior college transfer this year. He'll be followed by Cliff Coleman.

"I think they brought some guys in they think will help them," said Heaps. "From what I've heard, they're pretty good athletes and they have a lot of confidence in those guys."

The Ole Miss secondary is designed for man-to-man coverage on the outside. It's a situation Heaps and the Cougar pass-catchers are highly anticipating.

"As far as coverages go, they like to run man-to-man and then zone 50/50 as far as our diagnosis goes. Then you get into all those different zone coverages. But the man-to-man coverage is what they like to particularly do and that's what they feel most comfortable with, so that will be a good challenge for our offense."

Man-to-man coverage has given the Cougars fits in the past, but while BYU's receivers are fairly young, they are talented.

"If you're a good offense and you have good receivers, they're going to be licking their chops if they go man-to-man coverage," Heaps said. "We have to have the mentality to say, ‘If this guy is going to play me man-to-man coverage, throw me the football. Give me the ball.' And if we've got guys like that, we're going to be successful.

"I think it will be a good test for our receivers to see where our receivers are at. I know they're looking forward to the challenge and Ole Miss has some good corners with some good athleticism out on the edge."

The Coach Doman factor

With new BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman tweaking the Cougar offense, the Ole Miss defense won't have much to go on in terms of film. Ole Miss also has a new offensive coordinator in David Lee, who used to call plays at Arkansas. So, BYU has been looking at old Arkansas film to better understand what kinds of things Lee might throw at them. One has to think this situation favors BYU just a little.

"I think that's a big factor," Heaps said. "I mean, some of the basics will still be the same, but we're changing a lot of different looks. We're not going to be the same offense out there, and so it's really kind of a guessing game for them as far as what we're going to do, and so that kind of puts us at an advantage. We'll give them a lot of different looks and we're excited to get out there."

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