Scouting Report: Ole Miss Defense

Perhaps no man in the history of college football has done more for the moving industry than Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator John Thompson. The man who served as Ron Zook's first defensive coordinator in 2002 has been well traveled in his quarter century long coaching career.

He started as graduate assistant at Arkansas in 1982 and from there he went to Northwestern State (La.), Alabama, back to Northwestern State, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, Memphis, Arkansas, Florida, East Carolina, South Carolina, Central Arkansas and now Ole Miss.

He's made more southern stops than the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

Thompson's philosophy on defense has always been a combination of being aggressive and creating confusion. So far this season, his Rebels defense has only confused itself. Ole Miss is allowing 175 yards a game on the ground, 291 through the air and 30 points a game.

Their defensive line is probably their best unit, led by 320-pound defensive tackle Peria Jerry who clogs the middle and defensive end Greg Hardy who leads them with three QB sacks. Henry is also their third leading tackler.

The linebacking corps is physically strong and has good size, but lacks speed. Ashlee Palmer is the strong side guy and probably the best of the group. Tony Fein is the MLB but it's a bad sign that he is only eighth on the team in tackles. The Gators speed advantage on underneath stuff and running plays will be dramatic.

Their secondary really struggles, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete almost 70 percent of their passes. Strong safety Jamarca Sanford leads the team with 33 tackles, and the free safety Kendrick Lewis is fourth in that category with 24. Cornerback Dustin Mouzon, a junior from Orlando Edgewater leads the team with two interceptions, including one for a touchdown. He also is fifth on the team with 21 tackles.

Overall, this is a defense that Florida should move all over the place against. Ole Miss will try and confuse the Gators' blocking patterns with a variety of blitzes, stunts and twists, but Florida's personnel advantage should more than make up for that.

Anything special? ----- Ole Miss has blocked a punt, and they certainly will try and get a lot of pressure on Florida freshman Chas Henry if and when he has to punt. They have just one punt return in three games, but it went for 28 yards by Jamarca Sanford. They have had an extra point blocked.

Their kickoff return is not great, average 22.8 with a long of 33. They allow about two more yards per kickoff return and did give up a 48-yarder. Their kicker Joshua Shene has missed two extra points and is 5-for-6 on field goals, but his long is just 34 yards. Their punter Justin Sparks kicks ‘em high and pretty short. They have not allowed much on punt returns.

To me this game comes down to Florida being ready to play. The rise-and-shine nature of an 11:30 a.m. (local time) kickoff makes that a bit of a challenge, but they seem to be preparing for it as well as they can. The Gators have superior talent across the board, but this game can be difficult if the Gators have turnover issues, can't stop Benjarvis Green-Ellis or give up big plays over the top to Mike Wallace.

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