Coordinators -

Both Ole Miss coordinators agree, the Rebels will have to play sound, focused, fundamental football when they invade Bryant-Denny Stadium today. Read their thoughts inside.

During the open week, Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix "called out" his defensive players.

A challenge was issued, better results demanded.

Did they respond and what was his message?

"We have had much more enthusiasm and hopefully that will lead to playing with more passion, the way the game is supposed to be played," said Nix. "I just told them not to waste the best time of their lives. It's all about focus and keeping your priorities straight.

"They have a chance to get an education and play football in the best conference in America. To give anything less than their best in everything they do is a wasted opportunity they can never get back. I think I got the message across."

On the heels of that message, however, awaits perhaps the biggest challenge the Rebels have faced thus far this season - undefeated Alabama at their place.

Nix has to deal with an offense that is leading the SEC in rushing.

"You better be tough. They are going to run right at us. They are a good football team. They have big guys up front who like to play the game," he continued. "You have to match or exceed their passion or they can make it a long day for you.

"If we play with intensity and take care of our responsibilities, we will be OK. Anything less and we've got trouble."

Nix did not like what he saw out of the defense against South Carolina. It was, to be kind, a flat performance.

"I was very disappointed. It looked like it meant more to me than it did to some of them," he noted. "That was part of the message after that game and into open week."

Despite that off day, Nix thinks the Rebels have gotten better in some aspects of the game.

"We were terrible early in the season against the run, but I think we have gotten a little bit better every week from that point on," Tyrone assessed. "By that I mean fundamentally and knowing what we are supposed to do. Again, we didn't have the kind of intensity we needed against South Carolina, but we are going to get that back."

Nix is impressed with SEC rushing leader Glenn Coffee, who had gained over 700 yards for the Tide thus far this season.

"He runs behind his pads and is strong. He's a strong back with speed. He has patience and he understands what the guys in front of him are doing and he believes in them," Nix added. "When you combine him with a physical OL and a smart, experienced QB who knows what to do with the ball, that's all you want."

Nix said it will take everyone to handle the Alabama offense.

"It takes 11 guys doing their jobs to stop an offense like Alabama's. If you have any weak links, they will find them and exploit them," he closed. "We have to be sharp and tuned in."

Offensive Coordinator Kent Austin has similar concerns in figuring out ways to attack the Alabama defense.

"As a staff, we don't see any holes in their defense," said Austin. "They are really good across the board, an excellent defensive unit.

"They have great team speed and excellent size. They tackle well and they are very well-coached. They don't do a lot, but what they do, they do very well.

"We will have to be able to control the line of scrimmage and execute. When we get opportunities, we have to capitalize."

During the open week and this week, the Rebels spent a lot of time and effort on ball security. Austin believes the message has been received.

"When you hear the guys talking about it and then you watch little habits start to pick up in practice like guys starting to put their other arm over the ball in drills and in team periods, that gives you hope that they are being more ball conscious," Kent evaluated. "I think the guys are certainly getting the message and I think they understand what lax ball security has cost us so far.

"Fumbles have been a big difference for us in a couple of games, obviously. There are always six or seven plays you can point to that were difference-makers. With us, the most glaring have been our ball-handling issues. Hopefully, we will see a lot of improvement in that area."

Austin realizes the Rebels will have to play a clean game against the Tide.

"We have to be aggressive but at the same time we do not need to do anything to give them momentum swings and get that crowd going," he closed. "We have to execute and play smart."


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