Defensive update -

Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator John Thompson's view of the Rebel defense after seven practices is vague, as it was expected to be, but he's seeing some light at the end of the tunnel as some things are starting to fall in place. Read about it inside.

Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator John Thompson's recent interview concerning spring training jumped all over the place, but that's the case with his defensive unit as well.

"We are making some solid moves. Some guys have progressed. It's not an avalanche of progress, maybe more like a glacier, but it's progress," said Thompson. "We are moving a little bit at a time. The progression we are looking for is an accumulation of all the reps we will have in spring. We want guys to be solid in everything we are doing."

The gameplan this spring is to introduce the defensive players to the whole package and get better gradually at everything, not piece mill.

"We don't want to approach it to install one thing and work it until we are good before moving on to something else. We want to get everything we are doing in and knock off the rough edges one at a time," he explained. "So far, the effort has been very good. I have been disappointed in maybe one day out of the seven we have had. We had one day where our concentration level wasn't great, but the rest have been very focused."

It's no secret JT has a whole linebacking corps to replace. The status of that situation is similar to the rest of the defense - a work in progress.

"Jonathan Cornell is in the middle and we are asking a lot of him. We want him to run the show - be the quarterback of the defense and get us lined up. I'm seeing a lot of good things from him in terms of that. He's gaining confidence daily," Thompson stated. "He has to do it over and over and over and sometimes he tries too hard instead of letting the game come to him. Other than that, he's doing fine.

"We have a good battle going on at the Sam LB with Antonio Turner and Ashlee Palmer. That's working out good. And Jamie Phillips is doing some good work at Will. He's new to the program - he got here a couple of days before I did. His attitude is excellent, like all those guys. Right now, what we are doing is a little more intensive for the linebackers because it's brand new to some of them. We ask them to do a lot - it's the toughest position right now. Dave (Corrao) has done a great job with them. We are moving forward."

Thompson said the learning curve is a big one because of the approach the coaches are taking.

"We are trying to be as multiple as we can be. We could sit back and get good at one front and one fit, but we are going to change defenses and different looks and our LBs have to know them all," he assessed. "To be multiple and unpredictable, you have to introduce things this way and we know seven practices are not enough time. We have patience as long as we are seeing progress.

"We are looking at the end result. Sometimes that's frustrating to the players because right now they are thinking too much, but they are starting to get it during the training process. They are starting to se ethe big picture gradually."

Jamarca Sanford seems to have the inside track at strong safety as the returning starter, but what about free safety?

"Kendrick Lewis, who we moved over from offense, is really playing well. He has some playmaking ability," Thompson continued. "I love his attitude and like what he's doing. He shows up there.

"The thing about it with me is that I don't have any background with them, no preconceived notions. It's a fresh slate for all of us. I'm not getting caught up in any depth chart stuff right now - we are just putting players out there and evaluating how they perform. He's doing well right now, but so are some others."

Up front, Thompson mentioned sophomore DE Marcus Tillman first.

"Marcus is playing well. He stands out. Another guy who has made a lot of progress is Daverin Geralds. He hasn't even been a 'guy' around here really. Now he's a guy, he's a contributor to the defense. That's the kind of progress we are looking for," John smiled. "He gets in there and mixes it up. Jeremy Garrett is a tough guy who will be there. He's doing some good things."

Thompson is not allowing the lack of defensive depth to bother him.

"That's just spring. It's happening all over the country. Nobody has their full squad in spring training. It's part of the deal," he said. "We are spending a lot of time mixing and matching personnel and we are doing a lot of situational work. Depth, for now, is not an issue because we don't have a lot of it, so why worry?"

The catch phrase for this spring is "we're digging in."

"I went back to Arkansas last week to see my family and I'm not bringing years of tapes and notebooks I have on my defense with me when we move," he stated. "This is our defense now. I'm not conscious of what I have put in or what was already here. It's OUR defense now. I'm married to it and it's been like a cleansing for me. I believe in what we are doing and where we are.

"We had Monte Kiffin in here yesterday helping us again and we are getting a lot of input. We are mixing and matching ideas and coming up with the best defense that matches our players. I'm excited about it. We are digging in."

JT's M.O. in the past has been to be fundamentally sound but at times unorthodox. The goal is the same, but he said you probably won't see as much of the unorthodox.

"It's not radically different. It hasn't changed that we still have 11 guys out there and we are going to be fundamentally sound. It may not be as exotic as what I've done in the past, but we've got some wrinkles we can throw in there," he noted. "We are not off-the-wall. We are a little more striaght line, but we have some wiggle room too."

Thompson said he couldn't be happier about his relationship with head man Ed Orgeron.

"The most enjoyable part of this job so far has been my meetings and conversations with Coach O. We both just want the best. We have no walls between us. There are definite things we want to do and definite things we want to run and we are on the same page," he said. "I have to get things he and I agree on taught. How I teach it is my job. We talk everything out and we know what we both want to see.

"It's a great partnership. I understand he's the head coach and has definite ideas of how he wants things done, but we work them out together and that's fantastic."

The philosophy both want is simple.

"We want to keep things as simple as possible, but college football is not that easy anymore. You have to be multiple or you will get your butt kicked," he closed. "We want to be simple, but unpredictable. We have to keep the offensive people we face guessing, but be fundamentally sound at the same time. Coach O and I both agree with that and are working hard toward getting there."

While he maintains defensive progress is slow, progress is being seen and that's the bottom line.

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