'My Guys Played Well'

Defensive Line Coach Chris Kiffin, after grading the film from the Vanderbilt game, a 39-35 Rebel victory, was pleased with how his group played. In fact, all but one graded out 88% or better.

"My guys played really well," said Kiffin. "Obviously as a defense we have a lot to clean up, but with the team we were playing and what they presented on offense and our plan against that, my guys graded out really well.

"It was a game we had to be patient in. We tried to stop the run early on. We knew they were going to do some seven-man slide protection, so it would be hard to get there with a four-man rush."

Kiffin said he graded out nine of his players at 88% or better.

"That's a lot when you play 10," Kiffin noted.

"This was a hard gameplan for some guys, especially the young ones. They have been taught to go get the ball in high school, but with the gameplan we had - that required patience - it's hard. They don't get playing within the framework of the system yet," Kiffin said. "All they know is 'go make plays.' It's about 11 guys executing their individual responsibility to make it work.

"They will get it, but right now, some of them don't. They just want to make every play. On this level, and particularly different gameplans, like against Vandy where we were trying to contain the QB and stop the run, it's hard for them to grasp. They'll get it though."

The one who graded the worst, which may surprise you and which Kiffin expected, was freshman DE Robert Nkemdiche.

"There were things I knew would happen - he has to learn, but thank goodness those things happen in a win," he noted. "Some of that I pin on myself. There were some situations in the Red Zone I should have gotten him out of there and gone with more experienced players that I knew would execute.

Chris Kiffin
Chuck Rounsaville

"Overall, though, he did really well for his first game out there and his grade was good under those circumstances."

One thing Nkemdiche did, and will learn from, is taking on blockers head on.

"We have to keep working with him on rushing half a man and playing half a man. He went straight down the middle of his guy most of the night and took himself out of some opportunities," he continued. "He bull rushed and allowed (Austyn) Carta-Samuels to escape to the right. Had Robert played half a man, he would have gotten two or three sacks.

"Again, those are just things that teaching and more experience will take care of."

DE Carlos Thompson redshirted last year and got quite a bit of action against Vanderbilt.

"I think he came back hungrier. I think the redshirt helped him get right mentally," noted Kiffin. "I have said all along he has unbelievable athletic ability. If I can't get him to perform I am a bad coach.

"We just have to get him coached up on the gameplan and let his athleticism take over in teh game."

The health of DT Issac Gross has been in question. Kiffin does not think it is any longer.

"Issac played really well against Vandy. He and C.J. (Johnson), when the lights go on, they are different players than in practice," Kiffin noted.

A lot of Rebel fans have wondered about the progress of DE Channing Ward, who was used sparingly (one play) at defensive end, on which he hit the QB on the now-famous 4th-and-18 Vandy conversion, but almost decapitated a return specialist for Vanderbilt on a KOR.

"He's battling. He and Carlos are splitting reps this week. That was great for him on the kickoff return for his confidence," said Kiffin. "He also got one play at DE and hit the QB. Some guys had 40 plays and didn't touch him.

"He will get some game reps this week. Channing is one of those guys who just does not look great in practice, but if he's going to produce in the games, he's going to play. We have to get him some game tape and see what he does with it."

DT Carlton Martin got what looked like a surprise start. Kiffin said he earned it.

"He battled and battled. He came to work every day and didn't say a word. It was a real close battle and I believe in giving the nod, the reward, to the guy who works the hardest," Kiffin closed. "He played very well. Right now he is nursing a hamstring pull, but hopefully he'll be back real soon."

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