The Rebel defense had some lineup changes last Saturday against SEC foe Auburn.
Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator John Thompson said the personnel moves gave the defensive troops a more physical presence.
"I thought we played more physical. We tackled with much more authority. We were more physical at linebacker, for sure. Tony Fein and Jamie Phillips both had some big hits. We had some very solid contact," Thompson said. "We also had some big hits out of our safeties. Johnny Brown was very physical and having Jamarca Sanford back was good. He made things happen and was disruptive.
"I looked at the film and our totals for missed assignments and missed tackles and things like that are better. Our guys have been in the right places more lately."
But, as he said Saturday night prior to having the luxury of watching the film, it wasn't good enough.
"In a close game like that, with critical third downs - especially in the last drive, we didn't execute and make a winning play," he continued. "Like I said after the game, I was proud of the way the guys competed and I know they will keep giving us great effort, but we have to find a way to make winning plays."
The lineup changes affected every level. On the front four, LEO Greg Hardy was suspended for the game, Marcus Tillman was moved from LEO to DE and Viciente' DeLoach was moved to starting DE. Also up front, frosh DL Lawon Scott was moved from DT to NT and played a lot.
"Viciente' did some good things. He stuck it in there well and earned the playing time. He was pretty physical and I'm proud of him," J.T. added. "Lawon graded out well. He fought them in there against a tough OL and a two-back, power team. Lawon is a little ahead of Ted Laurent right now, but Ted is working hard and coming on too."
At linebacker, junior Tony Fein took over in the middle and responded with 16 tackles.
"Tony had a pretty good day and is finally playing faster. He's not having to think as much and that's important to his progress," Thompson stated.
In the secondary, Sanford came back to take over strong safety and Johnny Brown, playing for Jamarca while he was out, moved Kendrick Lewis out at free safety as the starter. Both had 11 tackles in the game.
"Like I said, we were more physical throughout the lineup with those guys in there. We were very active in the secondary positions and that is because of Johnny and Jamarca," said Thompson. "We didn't play as many people as we wanted to against Auburn. We need more rotation, but against Auburn they were doing well so we played the starters more snaps."
The Tigers sealed the win late in the game when facing a third-and-eight at the Ole Miss 34 Brandon Cox found Rod Smith for a score when the Rebs tried an all-out blitz and didn't quite get to Cox. Does J.T. regret the blitz call?
"No, not at all. Our coaches and players were excited about it and it's been one of our best pressures all year. We needed to make something happen and went for the win," Thompson evaluated. "I give Cox credit - he got the ball off. We could have executed it a little better, but he basically made a good play to get th ball off. I would have regretted it had we not made an aggressive call and they had made it, but playing to win is never a problem with me in hindsight. I felt we should go after them and we did."
John is very familiar with Northwestern State, the Rebs' opponent this weekend.
"I spent six years there. I cut my teeth on college coaching there. There are some great people at NW State," he said. "That is where I met Ed Orgeron. Scott Stoker, the NW State coach, was our quarterback - I know what kind of competitor and coach he is.
"Coach O and I both know they are going to bring it. They will get up and come at us with everything they have. They will come in here ready, no doubt."
John Thompson -
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