Work in Progress

Ole Miss DL Coach Chris Kiffin is like every coach who ever blew a whistle - he wants more out of his players, but considering the Rebels have only been through six spring practices, he's seen enough to be encouraged of things to come.

Name one coach who has ever, in the middle of spring training, said his players are where he wants them.

Don't worry, I can wait. . . .

OK, give up? The answer is you can't, they don't exist, and Ole Miss Defensive Line Coach Chris Kiffin is no exception to that ironclad rule.

"We are not being disruptive enough to suit me," said Kiffin after Friday's scrimmage. "We have a long way to go."

Unlike some coaches, however, Kiffin is taking a somewhat positive spin on the issue.

"A lot of it is learning a new defense, and that's going to take time. As you saw today, we had a bunch of alignment and assignment mistakes," he continued. "I will just continue to coach them in the fundamentals, get them lined up right and get them to work on their individual games.

"In the end, all of that stuff will come around and we'll be fine when it all comes together."

In Friday's scrimmage, the first of spring training, the DL was without two of its better players - DT Bryon Bennett, out with a high ankle sprain, and DE Gerald Rivers, whose Grandmother passed away.

"We can't rely on one guy, but it's noticeable when those two aren't out there. They are two of our more experienced defensive linemen," said Kif. "The thing is, we are going to play 8-10 guys so the ones available have to rise to the challenge.

"They will definitely help us when they are healthy, but we have to put ourselves in a position that an injury or two will not hurt the overall unit too much. We have to develop everyone to be able to respond when their number is called."

Derrick Burgess
Chuck Rounsaville

Who played "fast" in Friday's scrimmage? Kiffin pulled a name out that hasn't gotten much attention this spring thus far.

"Right now, I'm liking what I'm seeing from (DE) Carlos Thompson," he said. "C.J. Johnson is another one who is obviously talented and explosive. He's got his hand in a club right now, but I like his feet.

"Overall, though, we have to pick up the speed we are playing across the board. I'm preaching getting to the ball, playing fast, all those things, every minute of every day, but right now we don't have it at the level I want or anticipate us getting to."

Run-stopping is priority one, but also, in the age of high-powered aerial games and quality quarterbacks, pressure is the name of the game.

"I see us having the raw material to get that done and we will run an attack scheme and system," he explained. "We will blitz from different angles and we will apply pressure, but when we do rush four, we still have to get there.

"We have to keep working on one-on-one pass rush and hone the pass rushing techniques we want them to use."

Kiffin has an ace in the hole this spring. Former Ole Miss great and NFL All-Pro Defensive End Derrick Burgess is working with him.

"Derrick has been an awesome asset. We have 14 guys in that room and to have an extra set of eyes is great, but to have a guy who was so good at defensive end helping these players is tremendous," Kiffin noted. "I'm more of an inside guy and he's an outside guy.

"Just today, he gave the guys a couple of moves that helped. Derrick has been a definite plus for the defensive line and will continue to be. I am glad to have him and his expertise out there."

The bottom line is pretty clear.

"We will keep plugging away and we will get there," he closed. "We are not where I want us to be, but six practices in, I can see the potential to get there."

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