Werner expects Bulldog defense to mix things up and be aggressive

Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner has known Mississippi State Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz "for a long time." He says the Rebels will have to expect the unexpected when the two units square off in Starkville Saturday night.

"Mississippi State is big, physical and active up front. Coach Diaz gives you a lot of different looks, especially on third down," Werner stated. "It's the type of stuff that keeps you up at night, you know? We will be here late every night this week trying to figure out how to get the quarterback protected, especially on third downs."

Diaz returned to MSU this year for his second stint under Dan Mullen as the Bulldog DC. How does this Bulldog defense compare to last year's, Werner was asked.

"They lost a lot of good players from last year's defense, but they just reloaded, like everyone else in this league," Dan stated. "Some of the younger guys from last year they played some have really improved as well. Personnel-wise, I think they are as good as they were last year. 

"From a scheme standpoint, they employ more movement, more blitzes and they attack more than they did last year. The thing about blitzing a lot, though, is that then you have to get into man coverage and I'm not sure I would man cover us too much. You never know though, so we will have to be ready for everything. I know this - Manny Diaz is a really good defensive mind and he has quality players, so we know we will have a big challenge on our hands."

The Rebels lead the league in total offense and points per game and a lot of that has to do with the play of QB Chad Kelly, who is the total offense leader in the SEC.

"In the last few games, he has really played well. I don't think he has thrown an interception or even come close to one. He's reading things better and better and making better and better decisions. We need that type of play from him Saturday, but we can say that across the board - everyone needs to execute and play well against a strong defense on their home turf," Werner assessed. "It would help for us to get off to a fast start. It would help with keeping their crowd at bay a little. Those cowbells are tough to overcome, You have to really be sharp in your communication in that environment.

"I'm really pleased with the way the offensive line has been playing the last month or so, the receivers are really playing well and we have been able to muster up a run game that opposing defenses have to respect. The offense is doing well and we are proud of what we have accomplished, we have progressed as a unit, but we will have our hands full Saturday in Starkville."

Dan is looking forward to the rivalry game.

"We say all the time that all games are the same, but in reality, this one ain't the same," he said. "It just has a different feel to it and that's just bred into everyone because of the closeness of the two schools and being in the same state and same conference. I think it also adds something to the rivalry that both programs have been pretty good here lately. Both teams are playing for bigger bowls and more, so that adds even more intensity to the game."

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