Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator John Thompson understands the task ahead with the Arkansas Razorbacks.
His group will be facing one of the most prolific rushing duos in the country in Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, but he believes his unit is getting better so things could get real interesting this Saturday when the Rebels take on Arkansas at 1 p.m. in Oxford.
"They are good - real good. Inf act, they are great running backs. Peyton Hillis is also a very good back. I have known him since he was in junior high. He's got great hands and skills and he's a bigtime blocker," Thompson said. "That's as good a RB combination as there is in the nation - all three of them.
"It's foolish to even say it's a tremendous challenge. It's an unbelievable challenge to try to stop them."
If that threesome is not enough, WR Marcus Monk, who has been injured, is expected to be back in the Hog lineup.
"That is a huge factor. It looked like he was ready against Auburn, but they didn't put Marcus in. He makes a big difference. He's a big receiver who runs well and catches the ball very well. He will give QB Casey Dick a lot of confidence in the passing game," J.T. noted.
So what does all that mean? Simply put, a formidable foe facing what Thompson calls an improving defense.
"We are better than we were two or three weeks ago, for sure, but we will have to be even better to deal with Arkansas's attack," he explained. "When you get this deep in the season, everyone seems to get better. Our task is to run fast and tackle (laughs), because they are fast and know how to avoid and break tackles.
"We've improved on not making as many missed tackles or missed assignments. Our lack of effort plays have gone way down in the last two weeks. Those are positive things. We are reaching more of our goals each week. We've definitely improved. I think the improvement in tackling is directly attributed to us having less missed assignemnts and more effort. We are getting more people to the ball and that makes a difference."
John says he's not happy with the Rebel defense, but he is encouraged with the progress being made.
"Are we pleased? No, absoultely not. Are we encouraged with the progress? Yes, but today is today - let's get better today," said Thompson.
Thompson talked about DE Greg Hardy's effort against Alabama.
"We grade on a point system and Greg had a lot of points this week. And we found another QB sack to add to his total of unofficial stats," he explained. "Greg was very, very good Saturday. Real good, in fact."
Thompson has coached for Houston Nutt in the past and is impressed with the whole Arkansas program.
"I know a lot of those guys very well. Houston is an unbelievable coach. His guys play hard for him and for the state of Arkansas," he added. "He gets the best out of them. I know some other position coaches there and they are top drawer and class guys.
"On offense, they will add some wrinkles each week. They will stay with their basics, but they will always give you something else to deal with and adjsut to each week. They do a great job with their offensive system. They are very well-coached and I have a great deal of respect for them."
Thompson went to battle with Brandon Thomas at MLB and Johnny Brown at SS last week. How did they fare in place of Jamarca Sanford (injured) and the duo of Tony Fein/Chris Strong?
"Brandon did well, but Johnny did really good. He didn't flinch. We made an adjustment at halftime and threw something at him we hadn't practiced last week and he went in and didn't flinch. We expect those guys to produce and they have," J.T. said. "Those two guys have stepped up and done well. I'm proud of them."
McFadden is a guy who can line up at tailback and get a handoff or swing pass or he can line up and get a direct snap from center, where he can run, option or pass. Which is scarier for a DC, Thompson was asked?
"McFadden is a concern all the time. I wish they would just let Casey run it all the time (laughs). When they put Darren at QB, it's almost like they are playing with 12 guys on offense. He can throw the ball pretty well," Thompson stated. "The bottom line is that you have to know where #5 is at all times. If he is not the best player in the country, I don't know who is."
John Thompson -
OM Spirit Top Stories
Spirit's Take: Predicting Ole Miss - AuburnOle Miss hosts Auburn Saturday at 6:15 p.m. The Ole Miss Spirit staff gives their thoughts on the game ahead.
OM Spirit12:30 PM
Who's In the Running for LB Monty Rice?Monty Rice makes a lot of noise on the field with his play at linebacker, but off the field, he likes to stay quiet. The talented linebacker has cut his list of schools, so who…
Scout Football5:55 AM
Does New Offer Change Things for Burley?Jeffery Burley has been committed to Wake Forest since July, but an offer from an SEC school this week has him re-thinking things. Get the latest on Burley here...
Scout Football5:40 AM
Freeze Frames: Players Meeting and MoreOle Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met the media Wednesday to preview Auburn, as well as discuss the recent players-only meeting, the development of Charles Wiley and more.
OM SpiritYesterday at 4:21 PM
Inside the Matchup: Auburn vs Ole MissThe Tigers and Rebels square off from Oxford
Scout CFBYesterday at 1:15 PM