John Youngblood

DE John Youngblood has been underrated for a long time - no more

For most of his career, senior DE John Youngblood has been overshadowed by "bigger names" on the defensive line. This year, due to an injury to Fadol Brown and his own improvement, he has taken on a much larger role and it will be his turn to shine.

Youngblood downplays his athleticism humbly, stating bluntly that he's not the athlete some of the defensive linemen on the Rebel team are, but don't tell that to Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack.

"John does everything right, plus, he's a better athlete than people would think," Wommack says. "The strength of his game is you know he is going to be where he is supposed to be, doing the things he is supposed to do, every time, but don't underestimate his ability either."

Now, in his fifth year, Youngblood has gained the respect of everyone within the Rebel program, so much so that he is the recipient of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award and will wear the coveted jersey #38 this season. 

And with incumbent starter Fadol Brown's season in question, maybe even jeopardy, Youngblood has taken over the strong side defensive end starting role.

"It's a dream come true, really, to have the 38 jersey, to be considered a leader of the defense, to have more responsibility and to be a starter. I would rather have Fadol healthy for the sake of the team and our position, but I intend to do all I can for the team," he stated. "I have taken everything to heart. Football has always been important to me, but now it takes on a whole new level of importance."

Ole Miss DE John Youngblood

Youngblood said he's attacking everything with more focus.

"Being in the position I am in right now has made me practice harder, watch film more, prepare harder and become a leader. I have always kind of stayed in the background until now, but I learned from the seniors before me and now it's my turn to lead and sacrifice and do all the things the seniors before me did," he explained. 

Youngblood learned back in the early stages of summer that Fadol's stress fracture injury in his foot was not progressing like everyone had hoped and he knew what that meant.

"(DL) Coach (Chris) Kiffin called me in and told me I needed to be ready to play a lot of snaps and I'd better get ready," John noted. "I took that to heart. I have not left any stone unturned.

"I needed to become more vocal as a leader as #38 and as a senior. I needed to increase my football IQ some to let the guys around me know what's going on, not just with my position," he explained. "I need to be able to recognize formations, tendencies, down-and-distance and help my teammates stay in tune with all of that in the heat of the moment."

Wommack and Kiffin always say that Youngblood doesn't make mistakes.

"I don't feel like I am as physically gifted as Marquis (Haynes) or Breeland (Speaks) or some of the others, so my game is different," he added. "I know my role, I know my assignment, and I will be at the right spot at the right time to make the plays I am supposed to make or to set my teammates up to make plays."

Specifically, Youngblood wants to be able to get to the opposing quarterback more often.

"I have had a taste of success there and it tastes good," he said. "Going against Laremy (Tunsil) and Fahn (Cooper) for a few years has helped me a lot and I did a lot of extra work on my technique and rush moves last spring and during the summer. I am more confident now in my ability to get to the QB. I bring up Laremy because when you get a base block from Tunsil, it's like no other. Games were always easier than practice when he was around. There is no mistaking his ability and no mistaking how much you improve when you go against him."

Behind him are Garrald McDowell and Sean Curtis.

Garrard McDowell

"They have done a nice job, but they will see the most improvement by getting game experience. That makes us all better," he allowed. "I have faith in both of them."

Youngblood says playing Florida State next Monday night in Orlando is a major challenge.

"It has gotten real very quickly," he smiled. "Our coaches have worked hard putting together a great plan. It's up to us to execute it. A big part of that will be getting #4 (Dalvin Cook) on the ground. He is a special player and it's going to be an electric game. It's hear and I can't wait."

As of this writing, there is hope Fadol will be back in some capacity, which Youngblood wants as badly as anyone, but either way. John is going to be a bigger part of the Rebel defense than in the past.

A dream come true.

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