Shuffling the Deck

Ole Miss was already thin in the secondary, even before senior cornerback Marcus Temple suffered a season-ending leg injury Saturday in a loss to Alabama.

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Now, the cupboard is all but bare.

Outside of Wesley Pendleton, who has started all six games this season, Ole Miss has few cornerbacks with much playing experience to fall back on. Freshmen Senquez Golson and Nick Brassell have both played cornerback some this season, but only situationally.

"Team captain. Really one of the best corners we got with his passion for the game, the way he plays and the way he carries himself," Golson said of Temple. "I looked at him as a leader. I look up to him. It hurt me to see him go down."

"Dedicate the rest of the season to him, ‘cause I know that's what he'd do if one of us went down," sophomore safety Charles Sawyer said. "Just keep playing hard and keep playing for him."

Golson is expected to receive the biggest spike in playing time. He received his most extensive action to date Saturday, recording one tackle. However, his inexperience showed a number of times.

Crimson Tide running back Trent Richardson eluded Golson twice on a 76-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. ESPN named the play amongst its best of the night on SportsCenter, and Golson was Richardson's primary victim.

"You live and you learn. Hopefully I can bounce back," Golson said. "I ain't got my head down about nothing. I'll just come out and compete again.

Senquez Golson
Bruce Newman

"I need to be more aggressive, loose. You know, play my game. I feel the way I played against Alabama wasn't me. Kind of tight. Hopefully I can loosen it up and play."

Head coach Houston Nutt, as he said he would Monday, moved Sawyer back to cornerback this week to help ease the burden on Golson and Brassell. Sawyer played cornerback exclusively in each of his previous two seasons.

Sawyer leads the team in interceptions with four and is third in tackles with 38.

Nutt said Sawyer will rotate back and forth between safety and cornerback. Frank Crawford and Damien Jackson will man the safety positions.

"I've played it. I'm comfortable with it. Whatever's best for the team, that's what I'll do," Sawyer said.

Brassell showed signs of fatigue against Alabama. Yes, he had four receptions and 101 yards as a wide receiver, but he was on pace for much more. He hauled in a 59-yard reception in Ole Miss' opening drive of the game.

"I was on the field non-stop. It's hard, but you just have to dig down on it," said Brassell, who played mostly defense with Temple injured, totaling five tackles. "I'm used to it in practice, so it just makes it more easy for me on game day."

"I can see that," Sawyer said of Brassell being gassed. "You get tired when you're playing one way. When you're playing both ways, I know he's tired. He's a competitor. He's going to do whatever it takes."

Sawyer sees potential in Golson and Brassell.

"They're really good players," he said. "Brassell's a really good player, Golson's a really good player. But they're learning, same as I was last year. I was learning. They're going to be good."

As to pressure, well, Golson isn't really feeling any. Ole Miss (2-4, 0-3 SEC) hosts No. 10 Arkansas (5-1, 1-1 SEC) and its potent passing offense led by quarterback Tyler Wilson Saturday at 11:21 a.m.

Wilson has 1,779 yards passing and 12 touchdowns so far this season.

"Can't be no pressure. I guess it's just time to step up and play," he said. "I was out there for a couple of quarters this week. Got a little bit of experience. Hopefully I can turn it around against Arkansas."

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