Bulldog Coordinator Still Stresses Tackling and Execution as Defense’s Answers

What are your impressions of Ole Miss? “With Shea Patterson coming in, he’s a fun guy and not a great guy to prepare for. But I think they’ve done a good job this year moving the ball around. They have a lot of very, very talented wide receivers. With taking that redshirt off Shea they have a great shot of finishing the season.”

Is he a guy you prefer to keep in the pocket? “Yeah, once he get out of the pocket… The longer the plays go, I talk to the guys it’s like the Harlem Globetrotters. You know, it becomes behind-the-back passes. You lose the edge of the defense and the play can go for a long time. So we have some different thoughts on what we’re going to do for the game.”


How have you seen their offense change with him at quarterback? “You know, formationally it seems like they’re pretty wired-in to what they’ve done in the past. It’s hard to make wholesale changes late in the season, especially with an inexperienced player.”

“So I think they’re letting him play to his strengths, they’re letting him throw the ball around and letting him I guess mature and develop into the player they think he is.”


Dez Harris has worked through a couple of knee injuries, what have you seen this season? “Yeah, Dez has gotten stronger and stronger. He made a couple of plays at LSU, a couple of forced fumbles in the LSU game. When he’s gotten in in the course of the season, his comfort level how he’s played and the execution has improved all year.”

“So I think this has been a great year for him getting back, getting the confidence back in his body. I know coming back from injuries is always difficult. But then having excessive injuries and that mental part of bouncing back. So I’m proud of him, of the way he’s handled it to get healthy. And he’s been really good all year.”


How has J.T. Gray adapted to your coaching style? “I think J.T. has had a very fine year. Both J.T. and Dre (Deandre Ward) in terms of production are probably the two of the most productive guys we’ve had on defense and from consistency. Dre has been very, very consistent and J.T. is doing a great job in terms of productivity.”

“Both of them are versatile guys so we’ve been fortunate having those guys with those skill sets. They’ve proved to be valuable, it’s allowed us to play some base and not sub in some packages and still feel we have a shot.”


Did you see that production coming from spring or in training camp? “Yeah, that position in this style of defense should be a productive position. And they both are intelligent players. So they’ve adapted well and the production doesn’t surprise me.”


Four of the last five opponents have scored at least 40 points with 500 yards. Is there a theme that connects them? “It’s execution and tackling. I mean, that’s really the roots of playing defensive football.”

“There’s no magic calls. It’s about execution. We talk about we need the defense to behave the way the defense is designed to behave. Every defense that we call should have a different behavior. And we need the guys to execute within the parameters of those calls.”

“And ultimately if the ball goes in the air and you don’t knock it down; if the ballcarrier has the ball and there’s one or two or sometimes on (last) Saturday three missed tackles that becomes hard to play any quality of defense if the first, second, or third guy can’t get the guy on the ground.”


Are guys thinking too much or is there a lack of communication or just physically not tackling? “Well, some of them, you watch, were there; and somebody kind of fall off a block. And sometimes it’s the post player which as you guys know if the post player doesn’t get him down in post defense it’s going to go for a while.”

“It’s the execution, of understanding if I’m a B-gap player and they run outside-zone I have to stay leveraged outside my man. For whatever reason we’re not seeing the practice reps translate into showtime. And that’s something we have to continue to develop and have to keep demanding of those guys.”

“The tricky part is when you watch the film, or the guy comes off the field, he’ll tell me what he did wrong. I’ll say that’s a little late guys, that’s a little bit late. So I need to a better job making sure they know exactly what to do. The last couple of weeks we’ve drastically reduced the amount of calls in an effort to keep things very concise. Monday through Friday in terms of the meetings, in terms of how I script practice, to how we go through and review practice that it’s going to be very, very concise. There’s not a lot of volume right now.”

“Unfortunately even with the reduction of volume there’s still some mistakes.”


Are they practicing like they are playing, do you see the same mistakes? “No. Actually practices are pretty clean. They’re pretty clean. And I don’t know if it’s an anxiety. Or offenses always do things that you don’t expect the same way defensively we do things that we haven’t done weeks prior. So there’s always that component. That’s why they call it gameplanning, you don’t come out and do the same thing every week.”

“But the rules, we need to see those rules transfer into any formation. Because you’re playing man, there’s not a lot of variances to man. If you’re playing man and your X-receiver runs an under route you’ve got to play man-to-man.”
“So some of the things there’s execution. And we need to keep possibly limiting the volume so guys can go out and understand exactly what we need them to do.”


Rivalry games are emotional, does that help or hurt? “Well, I’m always for guys having great enthusiasm. I think enthusiasm especially on defense is one of those things that’s a necessity. I don’t think you can play defense from a sheer analytical point. I think there needs to be that enthusiasm, there needs to be that toughness, that energy to go out there and want to do it.”

“But I think both sides are going to be equally yoked on the rivalry part of it. Offense is a game of execution, so is defense. So when both sides are emotional then it probably ends up balancing itself out.”


Is there a way to scheme for receivers like their or do you just have to win one-on-ones? “Well, how they use their receivers, as you guys know their receivers are very similar in size and stature and speed. Three weeks ago when we played A&M they had different players ran some different style of routes and the lined them up specifically to run those type of routes.”

“You don’t see that as much with receivers that are all kind of running the same, they’re all kind of built the same. So we just have to do a great job of winning. We’ve got to play the formation. They will move their guys around and with the tempo that they go it’s really hard to run around and play jersey-matchups when they’re snapping the ball with 30 seconds left on the 40-second clock.”

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