“If you watch film on them and look at everything they do, they try to run the ball and they try to beat you with play-action pass,” said the senior veteran of Southeastern Conference wars. “We know they’re going to try to overpower us. We’ve got small players on defense.”
But Bryant said Ole Miss is preparing for whatever LSU might throw the Rebels’ way. The Ole Miss defense is one of the tops in the country.
“Our whole defense is about being gap sound,” said Bryant, a linebacker from Seminole High School in Sanford, Fla. “You fill that gap. Fill this gap. The safety comes down and fills this gap, and we’re going to make the tackle.
“We’re just running the defense better. We had a lot of veterans come back and play this year. Just learning the defense more and more. Coach (Dave) Wommack threw a lot at us during camp. And I’d say the first couple of weeks we really didn’t know the defense like we were supposed to.”
They were a good defense early this season, and they've only continued to get better.
Bryant said he sees both the Rebels (7-0 and 4-0 SEC) and the Tigers (6-2, 2-2) improving as the games move on.
“Every team gets better toward the end of the year,” he said. “Just like LSU, we’re getting better, too.”
Bryant said LSU has a couple of strong running backs the Rebels will have to contend with. And he knows the back end of the defense will also be tested.
“Both of them are big power running backs. I feel both of them are the same type of backs, from what I’ve seen.
“I’ve got faith in our corners. We’ve been getting good corner play this year. I feel like our corners are going to let the front seven eat. And we’ll worry about the passing. If we do that, then we’ll be alright.”
The Rebels, especially on defense, have been more than alright this season. They currently rank No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense, allowing 10.6 points per game. Alabama is the only team in the league that ranks higher in total defense presently.
The Rebel defenders have been able to effectively shut down almost every opponent they’ve faced. They’ll need to be at their best come Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
“We’ve just got to go in and play our football and do what we do best, which is fly around and get the job done,” said Bryant, with 24 tackles on the season, 15 of them unassisted.
Bryant said he loves the way the Rebel defense plays and also being a part of it. And playing the Tigers in their home stadium, known as Death Valley, is something he eagerly anticipates as a competitor.
“I love sticking my nose in. I love going in and hitting fullbacks and hitting running backs,” he said. “This is that type of game. Coach came up and told me this is your type of game. I really believe him in that, just because it’s one of those type games where they want to run downhill and run the ball, pull linemen, or try to get outside on us. We’ve just got to use our speed and athleticism and power to make plays.”
Bryant said playing a team like LSU with its run-oriented gameplan most likely in place, does present its challenges. But the Rebels usually are able to adjust to whatever the opposing offense throws their way.
“It is kind of difficult,” said Bryant of transitioning from week to week as offenses dictate. “But we’ve kind of seen it before. Boise State didn’t really have a fullback, but they had a big running back. Alabama had a big running back. Texas A&M had a big running back, even though they didn’t just line up and play power football. Tennessee had a big running back. Everybody has a big running back these days. We’ve just got to make plays.”
Depth has been a big factor in the Rebels’ success in 2014. Bryant said it’s made a difference, and he can tell it now that the regular season is more than half over.
“I’m feeling fresh right now. I feel like I’m in shape just because I’m going into games with me and Denzel (Nkemdiche) splitting snaps,” he said. “That’s helped me out a lot to stay in shape and healthy.
“We have a lot of depth. One game I think we played 13 defensive linemen. That’s what makes our defense great. By the fourth quarter we’re not tired. We’re still switching out and rotating players. We’ve got a lot of corners that can play. We’ve got safeties that can play. That’s what’s helping our defense right now - depth. “
Bryant said every player on the team knows that if something happens and they can’t go on a particular play or series, then there’s somebody there to lift them and fill in equally as well.
“It feels great knowing there’s a person behind you and maybe even another person behind them that can make the plays,” he said. “That’s what’s happening.”
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