After Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator John Thompson reviewed and graded the film from the 30-24 loss to Florida last weekend in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, he was still shaking his head at the close-and-almost effort of the Rebels.
"I suppose you could say this about any game, but I can take you in the film room and show you a lot of plays where if we had just made a tackle we were in position to make or played a little tighter on a route or a taken the right angle on a blitz, we could have changed the game," he said. "To me, when you can be that specific, it is frustrating but it also shows improvement. Our postgame film sessions with the guys have not been this specific in the past few weeks - we've had to correct a whole lot more. Now, we are just a little bit off instead of a long way off.
"So, it's frustrating on one hand, but it shows progress on the other."
In weeks past, Thompson has been lamenting assignment problems. Not this week.
"We are not having as many missed assignments as before. They are going down quite a bit, actually. It was how we played that was the problem - our tackling is still poor," J.T. noted. "I do not want to take anything away from Florida - in talking to our players, they say Tebow was a load, a huge load and some of their guys in hte open field are very fast - but we could have done a little bit better and made a few more plays."
CB Cassius Vaughn had his second start, but this time it was against a team that utilizes the option. How did the sophomore respond?
"We didn't give up the big play, which is good play from our corners, but I think Cassius could play a little tighter and can be more physical. All our corners could play tighter though, so it wasn't just him," Thompson declared. "Now that we have some games under our belts, we have to tighten the screws up just a little more in a lot of areas, and coverage is one of them.
"Cassius has good skills and with experience will keep improving."
Another newcomer thrust into the spotlight has been walkon LB Jamie Phillips, who led the team in tackles against Florida with 11.
"Jamie did some good things. He had a lot of tackles and played his best game. He was into it, but he's got some tightening up to do as well and he missed some tackles he knows he should have made," John added. "He just needs more awareness, but we could say that about several of our guys. We need to be aware that we can cheat some formations sometimes and little things like that."
J.T. is not please dthe Rebel defense has not caused nay more turnovers than they have in the past three games.
"We are not getting enough people to the ball. That's number one. We have played three QBs who understand the importance of protecting the ball, but still, we have to make things happen more than we are," he said. "I thought FS Kendrick Lewis had a shot at a pick, but on tape it shows it would have been a fabulous catch for him to get it. We have to get more people to the ball and we have to put more pressure on quarterbacks when they are trying to throw."
Thompson said he's looking forward to facing a more "conventional" offense this week in Georgia, but he expects the Bulldogs to spread his defense out some.
"They have good coaches. They will see we have struggled against spread formations and will spread the field some on us too, but their offense is more 21 personnel (two backs) and straight at you, which I think we are more suited for personnel-wise on defense," he explained. "We are ready for some normalcy, so to speak, in opposing offenses. We are not real suited, personnel-wise, for defending spread offenses yet, which is apparent in our results the first four games of the year.
"I think our personnel will be more effective between the tackles, so to speak. Guys like Chris Strong and Tony Fein and Jamie Phillips."
In evaluating Georgia's offensive talent, Thompson began with the running backs.
"They have an excellent stable of running backs. They have several of them with experience and this new kid, Knowshon Moreno, is very good. Matthew Stafford is also doing a lot better job this year at quarterback now that he has some experience under his belt," Thompson continued. "They have speedy receivers. They don't jump off the tape with their speed, but you see them running by everyone they face. They are a huge screen team and do a real nice job with the screen game.
"Up front, their offensive line is young, but very talented. They are very physical, which is their nature as a program. We expect them to be physical on offense. And even though they attack you up the middle, they try to get the edge on you and do so very quickly."
J.T. said he was not concerned about taking the Rebels on the road in terms of being intimidated by a big, loud crowd.
"Our crowd got going in the game with Florida. It was very loud. We should be used to it by now. I hope we feed off their crowd," Thompson stated.
The Rebels need a win, obviously. It would go in the category of a "big" win if they could pull an upset at Georgia. Something like that would do wonders for the Rebel psyche, Thompson said.
"Once you get it turned around, it can have a snowball effect," he closed. "That's what we are hoping for and striving for. We'll know what kind of team we are at the end of the year, and not until then, but a big win right now would give us a shot in the arm we need."
John Thompson -
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