'D' Dominates

In spring training, the thought process from the Ole Miss coaching staff was that the Rebel defense was going to be pretty salty. Early in August, the offense came out with more spunk, but the last two days the defense has lived up to its advanced billing.

"The defense dominated the offense for the second day in a row," said Reb Coach Hugh Freeze. "As coaches and players, we have a long way to go on the offensive side of the ball.

"We did not protect the quarterback at all. We didn't give the kind of effort I was looking for. The offense had two good days this week and then the last two days, the defense is way ahead and dominating. Have of the offensive plays we had scripted today were wasted reps for our receivers because the QBs don't have time to go through thgeir progressions."

What's going on right now is a combination of things. One, the defensive line is simply hard to block. Two, the offensive line is a work in progress. Three, more experience on defense overall.

"When you get C.J. (Johnson), Rob (Nkemdiche) and Marquis (Haynes) going, they are a handful in one-on-one matchups and in pass rush situations," he noted. "Robert has been dominant on the inside."

Freeze admits fatigue could be part of the issue, but he's not buying into that much.

Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche.

"Hey, embrace the process. We are going to the funeral this afternoon of a young man (Chance Tetrick) who fought hard to the end," Freeze stated. "How can we not embrace the chances we have? We can sit around and say it's fatigue, but anyone in the country can say that. Go out there and give it all you've got. Be all in."

On the OL, Coach Matt Luke is still playing a bit of musical chairs trying to get the right combinations and right top five.

"It will be another week before we know how that is going to shake out. Right now, the constants are Laremy Tunsil at LT, Aaron Morris at LG and Justin Bell at RG. Robert Conyers and Fahn Cooper are battling for RT and Conyers and Ben Still are battling for center. It's too close to call today. All of them are doing good things and all have things to get better at."

Random Notes:

* JUCO transfer CB Tee Shepard injured his foot yesterday and had an MRI today. No results were known at this time, but the injury came on the heels of two "phenomenal" days of practice. "He had in interception yesterday before he got hurt that was unbelievable - a one-handed snag with his off hand across his body way in the air in the corner of the end zone. Incredible," said Freeze. "I hope nothing serious is wrong with his foot. He was injured going for a fumble and somebody fell on his foot in the pile."

* DE Fadol Brown (ankle) is out of his boot, but will not practice until mid-week next week. . . Issac Gross (neck stinger) was still out. No word on his return. . . CB Kailo Moore (kidney bruise) did not participate today, but he was in shorts and helmet and was running more. . . WR Collins Moore (knee) is expected to start running some next week, but will be sidelined for a few more weeks.

Ole Miss backup quarterback Devante Kincade.

* Freeze and the team are obviously shaken up by the passing of Chance Tetrick, but in this sad time comes a silver lining on lessons of life. "Anyone who watched Chance closely knows that he had more than his share of a test in life and he passed it all with flying colors because of his passion and attitude and never give up spirit," Freeze stated. "What better lesson could we learn and what a great example of life was his too short life."

* It's getting a little repetitive, but the same freshman who stood out early are continuing to stand out, per Freeze. "The Moore twins can really run and they go 100 miles an hour in everything," he smiled. "Victor Evans is going to be really good in time. I love Rod Taylor's athleticism. Ken Webster will be a player. DeMarquis Gates is already making an impression at MLB - he will strike you. Marquis Haynes is a stud."

* In Friday's scrimmage, QB Devante Kincade went "live" and did better than he has been doing of late. "He did some real good thing with his feet and some better things with his arm," Freeze stated. "He needed a day like yesterday."

* Frosh CB Kendarius Webster was not in green, denoting injury, for the first time today. He made a couple of nice pass breakups in team action and continues to impress.

* With Fadol Brown out, DT Lavon Hooks has taken his place for now as a personal protector on the punt twam with Robert Nkemdiche and Jeremy Liggins.

* MLB Temario Strong missed a couple of days due to personal issues, but was back in the fold Saturday.

* TE Evan Engram played at 216 last year and was highly successful as a true freshman. Don't look now, but there's a different Engram taking the field this year. 230 pounds, stronger, faster and no longer mentally "swimming." Saturday, he caught a 20-yard TD pass from Bo Wallace by out-jumping and out-muscling OLB Denzel Nkemdiche, who was in great position, for the ball.

* On Denzel, he is getting a lot of first-team reps at OLB. He is facing a one-game suspension, but obviously LB Coach Tom Allen is getting him ready beyond the Boise game.

* The running back "race" is still open, but right now it appears experience is winning out in the form of Jaylen Walton and I'tavius Mathers, but do not count out Jordan Wilkins, who had some good plays Saturday, and Mark Dodson.

* CB Senquez Golson looks to be in mid-season form. Today, he had a pick six and two nice pass breakups. . . At the other corner, it appears that Derrick Jones and Mike Hilton are alternating with the first team.

* While the offense struggled quite a bit, did throw two TDs strikes - the one to Engram and the other while avoiding a heavy rush, rolling left and finding Laquon Treadwell for a 45-yard score.

* With Fadol Brown out, Marquis Haynes is getting reps with the number one defense at the strong DE slot opposite C.J. Johnson on the other end. Those are two speed rushers deluxe in the lineup at the same time.

* Robert Nkemdiche is also a different "cat" this year. Very explosive off the snap, quick and disruptive. In back-to-back-to-back plays today, he knocked down a pass, had a QB sack and forced a QB hurry.

* C.J. Johnson, Nkemdiche and freshman Husky A.J. Moore had QB sacks today.

* It appears as if backup QB Ryan Buchanan will be the holder on placements this year. He held for all three kickers in the field goal period.

* On teh field goal team, John Youngblood and Channing Ward are the outside wing protectors. Big bodies and good athletes who can move.

* On field goals, Andrew Fletcher is money from 40 and in, but both Andy Pappanastos and Gary Wunderlich have the stronger legs. Pappanastos was 3-3 from 47, 53 and 55 yards. Wunderlich made his 52-yarder with a good 10 yards to spare.

* The Rebs will have a practice tonight (closed) and then take tomorrow off.

OM Spirit Top Stories