Getting Off Blocks

While the Rebel defense has played well enough to keep their team in most games, one ingredient missing to get them to the next level of play has been the ability to get off blocks.

After the Ole Miss-Fresno State game, Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt said the Rebel defensive players "looked like magnets" to the Bulldog blockers.

"At times, it looked like we were glued to them," he explained. "We did not do a very good job of getting off blocks."

In short, the Rebels are engaging the way the coaches want them to, but they are not doing a good enough job of disengaging quickly enough and going to make a timely play.

Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix has seen the same thing, so it came as no surprise the focus of last week's practice session was separating from blockers more effectively, thus freeing themselves to make a tackle.

"It's been an issue since the beginning of the year - getting off blocks," said Nix. "We have to be more relentless and make a total commitment to being more aggressive about getting off blocks."

Part of that is simple. Get more physical and violent.

"Our kids came out and competed this week trying to become a more physical front and more physical across the board," said Nix. "We need a more physical presence and I think we gained on that in last week's practices.

Tyrone Nix
Chuck Rounsaville

"Getting off blocks comes back to being physical. You have to play with proper pad level, put your hands in the right place, refuse to be blocked and wanting the ballcarrier badly enough to get there. In the end, though, you also have to be physical to accomplish those things."

The next opponent - Alabama - will be a stern test to see if the Rebs have improved in that area. If there is one offense in the country who latches on and won't let go, it's the Tide's.

"Alabama probably has the best offense we have seen to this point. Right now, we are trying to figure out a way to get 12 defenders on the field without getting a penalty," he joked. "Seriously, they are a physical bunch who doesn't turn the ball over very much and doesn't beat themselves. They are very sound in what they do, they attack with the proper pad level and they are a physical football team.

"To compete with them, you have to be fundamentally sound, play with passion and be physical. You can't let them lock on and stay attached. You have to get off blocks quickly to stay in this game."

The Rebels entered this year with, basically, a brand new set of defensive tackles. There have been some rough spots while they gained some experience, but now they should be more seasoned as the teeth of their schedule comes around.

"We have matured some. We understand the most important thing is the ball and to go attack it. I believe we are becoming more aggressive," Nix closed. "The first five games have given our front guys and newcomers a taste of what it's like on this level. Now, they get the real deal."

Senior DE Wayne Dorsey knows there will be a difference in what the Rebs have faced so far this season and what awaits them.

"Definitely, we know what we are going to get. Alabama is a very physical team," said Dorsey. "It's will on will, really. It's football in its rawest form. You have to be ready for a war."

Wayne Dorsey
Chuck Rounsaville

Wayne believes the Rebels have a mindset of being more physical, which is what it will take against the Tide.

"We have to switch gears now. Some of the teams we have played so far have been more hitting you where you aren't," Dorsey explained.

"Bama comes right at you. They try to run over you, beat you physically and they have been successful so far with that approach. We have to match that, no doubt."

While there is a built-in excitement level of playing the top team in the nation at home, Dorsey says the Rebs have to keep it all in perspective.

"It's definitely exciting, but we have to play under control and not get too hyped up. We have to make sure we do things the right way and carry out our assignments," he closed. "It's not just another game, but it is the next game and you still have to keep your wits about you."

"Everyone" talks about the Alabama defense, a unit worthy to be talked about a lot, but the Tide offense is potent as well.

Their prowess will demand the best the Rebels have to offer.

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