Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator John Thompson said it's back to basics for the Rebel defenders as they prepare for Florida this weekend.
"We have to get back to work. We have to tackle better, get off blocks better. We did some things a little better against Vandy than we did against Missouri, but obviously not enough," said John. "Nobody is hanging their head. We are all saying we are going to get this thing improved. That's our attitude as coaches and the attitude of the players, but we haven't done it yet except in spurts. Spurts aren't good enough."
Thompson said he is surprised the Rebels are making as many assignment and fundamental mistakes as they are three games into the season.
"I'm disappointed and upset about it. That comes back to me and the other defensive coaches. If a kid comes home with a bad grade, it's not always the kid's fault. Sometimes the instructor has to find a better way to get things taught," he continued. "We have to recognize that as coaches. I'm very frustrated that we have not been able to teach them better than we have, but at the same time our players have to be responsible and accountable too.
"We have to find a way. Whether it's a different presentation or different material, we have to teach them what to do. Maybe less of one thing and more of another. Whatever it is, it starts with me. We will not hang our heads, we will find a way and get it right and we are all in it together."
Thompson did not get into specifics about personnel changes, but it's apparent a lot of options will be looked at.
"Like I said, we have to get our best people out there and get them playing better," he said. "I don't know about personnel changes right now, but we'll be looking hard at who is doing what and how they are performing."
John talked about simplifying what they do on defense some.
"Instead of trying to outsmart the opponent, we just need to get to the point where we are playing better," he said. "It's obvious that we have spent a lot of time gameplanning and not enough time on basics, making a tackle and getting off blocks. Once we get that taken care of, we can spend more time on schemes and different looks.
"We will also try to get our best, fastest players on the field. Instead of reacting to what the opposing offense is doing so much, we need to be more proactive in taking care of what we do well and doing it with our best players. Get our best guys in the right spots at the right times and play ball."
Thompson knows the task ahead is not an easy one. Florida is ranked in the Top 5 in the nation and is rolling at 3-0 with a high-powered offense.
"When you turn on the tape, the obvious thing you see is their speed. They have as much team speed as anyone I have seen at every position. They do a great job with their personnel moving them around and they are all fast," J.T. assessed. "Florida runs some unique things with their spread offense. There is so much option and power and deep passing game involved in it. They do a little bit of everything - the QB power, the RB power, the vertical passing game and all phases of the option game. We have our hands full.
"They are scoring 55 points a game, they scored 59 on Tennessee, they are the defending national champs and they are real good. I'd say this is a big challenge, but even saying that, this is still about us and doing the right things ourselves. We are in this business for challenges like this, but we have to be on top of what we are doing to make anything positive happen."
Florida's offense will be operated by sophomore QB Tim Tebow, who has been prolific thus far in the young season.
"Tim is obviously a great leader and a special athlete and person," Thompson said. "Everyone knew he could run the ball, but now he has developed his passing game - he's completing 73% of his passes and it's phenomenal how many of them are deep balls. They run by everyone they play and he hits them with good passes. He's a 400-pound bench presser and he's got a strong arm."
Sophomore do-all WR Percy Harvin is also a major concern for John.
"Percy has a tremendous amount of speed. They direct snap to him, they throw to him, they reverse to him. He's kind of like Reggie Bush was at USC," Thompson added. "He's special, but all of them are really good.
"It's hard to put their offense and their personnel in a box. They have exceptional athletes and they think outside the box. It's hard to nail them down because they are all versatile players in a versatile system, starting with Tebow and Harvin. They also use their tight ends as more than window dressing."
J.T., who coached at Florida under Ron Zook just a few years ago, is not surprised the Gators are at the top of the college football world.
"They are always going to have great athletes because of where they play and the facilities they have," he closed. "They won a national title with Coach Zook's playes and now they have recruited their own stable of great athletes.
"They are a young team, but their youngsters have a lot of experience because they played a lot last year in some blowout wins. They are just good and we have to prove to them we are good as well."
Note: There is still no word on the return of LB Jonathan Cornell, who was hurt in the first quarter of the Missouri game.
John Thompson -
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