Spur-red On

The Spur is a hybrid linebacker/safety, with all sorts of responsibilities. A tough assignment for a JUCO transfer, but Aaron Garbutt, in his first Division I start, handled it well.

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For a couple of weeks, there was a lot of speculation about the defensive alignment the Ole Miss Rebels would use against BYU.

Would it be a 4-3 or a 4-2-5?

In reality, it appeared to be both, with JUCO transfer Aaron Garbutt playing what is called "the spur" - a mix between linebacker and safety.

Sometimes, he would drop in coverage like a safety and give the defense a true 4-2-5 look; sometimes he would line up in a traditional linebacker position, giving the defense the standard 4-3 appearance; sometimes he would be lined up on the line of scrimmage and sometimes he'd be split out wider than the inside linebackers.

Either way, Garbutt, in his first Division-I start, responded well in the Rebs' 14-13 loss to the Courgars, registering five tackles and one hit on BYU QB Jake Heaps.

"Aaron, boy, for his first time out I thought was very, very good," Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt said. "Very physical. There's a couple of things we've got to correct with him, but he really chased the ball hard, ran hard, did good things in pass coverage and as a run-stopper. He's only going to get better. I feel really good about Aaron."

Aaron Garbutt
Bruce Newman

"It went OK. I had a lot of fun. It was a lot different than JUCO, that's for sure," Garbutt noted. "It was exciting and I enjoyed it. It took a few plays for me to catch up to the speed of the game - it was a lot faster than any level I had ever played on. It wasn't just one or two guys who could run, it was everybody. That takes an adjustment, but after a couple of hits, I was fine. I got comfortable pretty quickly."

For Garbutt, who was a junior college star, the biggest adjustment was not trying to do too much.

"The spur has to be very disciplined and play within the framework of the system. All positions are that way, but I felt very conscious of taking care of my responsibilities and not venturing beyond that too much. There's no freelancing on this level," he explained. "You have to be patient and let the plays come to you. When they do, it's up to you to make it happen.

"I like the multiple responsibilities of the position. I can blitz, I can drop in coverage, I can support the run - whatever the call is on that play," Aaron noted. "That keeps you sharp because your assignment is always changing and you have to stay focused every play.

Garbutt, who played safety and cornerback in JUCO, feels comfortable at the spur.

"The position fits me well. I feel like I am a physical player, so the linebacker part of the position suits me, and I feel I can cover receivers, so my speed helps me there."

While Garbutt gives himself a passing grade for his first effort, he's not satisfied and has work to do.

"From watching film, I know I can read my keys better, I can be more assignment-sound and I can always improve on the little things. There were some things during the game I thought I was doing well, but after watching the film, I see where I could have done them better. There was nothing major, but some little things, like my alignment being off a little and things like that," he assessed. "I think that holds true for the whole defense. We played pretty good against BYU, but there were more plays to be made and we can always get better.

"It's always about getting better. Nobody has ever played a perfect game. There are always things to correct. As long as you have that attitude and the mindset to correct your mistakes, you inch closer to the perfect game."

The Cougars threw a lot at the Rebels, particularly with the short passing game. Garbutt said the Rebs were prepared well, but sometimes BYU executed perfectly.

"They didn't show us anything our coaches had not prepared us for. Sometimes they just executed their plays to perfection and that is hard to totally stop, but there were real surprises," Garbutt stated.

Even though he has not been around a long time, and really didn't know what to expect, he was pleased with the team's response after the loss.

Brandon Bolden
Chuck Rounsaville

"I am glad we weren't OK with losing. I am glad we had some heartbreak that carried over until Sunday, but I am also glad we are putting it behind us," he closed. "I want to remember the pain of losing so I will do everything I possible an to prevent it from happening again."

Bolden out three to four weeks; Nutt hopeful Davis returns for SIU:

Ole Miss lost two running backs, seniors Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis, to injury in the loss to BYU Saturday.

Bolden suffered a small fracture to the ankle area, according to Nutt, and will be confined to a walking boot for a least a couple of weeks. Sources indicated Monday Bolden is likely to miss up to three to four weeks.

"It's a fracture of the ankle area. You don't put a cast on it or anything. He'll be in a walking boot at least a couple of weeks. I don't know after that. That hurts," Nutt said.

Davis, meanwhile, was listed as a co-starter in the revised depth chart with Jeff Scott, who also had to leave the game against BYU, though he did return. Davis was the team's leading rusher with 28 yards on 12 carries.

However, Nutt said Davis (hyperextended knee) won't practice this week, making his status for Southern Illinois doubtful at best.

"I'm hopeful, but he won't practice this week," he said. "That's what's difficult. My experience tells me when you don't practice, it's going to be hard (to play)."

Nutt said the team will rely on Scott and veteran Devin Thomas. Wide receiver Korvic Neat, formerly a running back, will be moved back to the position to provide depth, as will true freshmen safeties Cody Prewitt and Chief Brown.

"We took a real hit at the tailback spot, so Jeff Scott has to get ready to go," Nutt said. "Right now we have Jeff Scott, Devin Thomas and then we'll probably move Korvic Neat back to the tailback. And then tomorrow, we'll work a little Chief Brown and Cody Prewitt, as well. We've got to get a couple of guys in there ready to go, ‘cause you're so thin."

Nutt impressed with SIU:

Ole Miss and Southern Illinois will be meeting for the second time in history Saturday at 5 p.m. The Salukis defeated Southeast Missouri State in their season opener.

"All you got to do is watch the film. This is a scary bunch," Nutt said. "This is a good, good football team. They won nine games last year. A lot of them back. They've got a couple of transfers in. Tailback's very, very fast. Receivers very fast. Quarterback's very good. Their defense will blitz all night, and they're very quick. We've got a real challenge this week.

"We don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves. Everybody's thinking (we) should've been 1-0. Our players felt that way, coaches felt that way. But the truth is, you cannot do anything about that but get ready for Southern Illinois."

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