Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix won't veer too far off from what helped the Rebels end with a 9-4 record in his first year as the Reb defensive boss.
"We will reiterate fundamentals and work hard on the little things," siad Nix. "Last year, we had to spend a lot of time on teaching the responsibilities of each position and teaching the schemes so we could understand our weaknesses. We will continue to do that, but we hope our learning curve is quicker this time around with so many guys returning. We are also expecting the younger guys to come on quicker in terms of their understanding."
Nix will be entering the spring session with a new defensive line coach, Terry Price, who came on board in January to replace Tracy Rocker, who left Ole Miss for his alma mater, Auburn.
"I don't think we will miss a beat. Terry has a feel for what we want to do and he has had an opportunity to study a lot of film," Tyrone stated. "I think he will also be able to add some things to our defense that he has experienced or been exposed to. He and I have talked about some different schemes up front."
Nix honed down the schemes the Rebs were using some after the South Carolina game, when he felt he gave the players "too much to handle."
This spring, he expects to be able to add some things to the package due to the experience the returning players have.
"We will add some wrinkles here and there and improve on the things we do well. Our number one goal will be trying to improve our pass defense," he explained. "That comes from understanding where their help comes from, understanding the weaknesses in each coverage and understanding the passing game of opposing offenses better.
"We have a lot of room to improve back there. It will be a challenge, but we expect to do it."
Nix hopes to come out of spring training with a good idea of a first, second and maybe even third unit.
"We'd like to come out with a two or three deep if that opportunity presents itself. We can't predict injury, of course, but we can get a lot done. We are looking for guys who compete the hardest, are most consistent and are most accountable throughout the spring," he noted. "Those people will have a chance to start. Who knows who will be the starting guys? Competition out there is good and will drive a lot of decisions."
The question most often asked about the defense is how you replace All-American Defensive Tackle Peria Jerry?
"I think it is a challenge to all of them. I think everyone has to up their level of play. I don't think one person can do it. It's up to all 11 on defense," Nix said. "(MLB) Jonathan Cornell or an (OLB) Allen Walker or (FS) Kendrick Lewis, all those guys have to improve to help replace a player of Peria's caliber."
In the early going of the offseason, Nix is seeing what he hoped to see - some leadership surfacing from "new" leaders.
"Guys like Kentrell Lockett, Lewis, Marcus Tillman are stepping up in a leadership roles," he said. "I expect big things out of all of them."
At the actual position Peria vacated, Lawon Scott and Ted Laurent are the two anticipated by Nix to be the leaders of the group.
"Lawon has proven he can start and perform. Ted started some games for us. You start with them then move to Justin Smith, who was a freshman last year who is no longer a freshman and has shown us excellent potential. Hopefully he will mature and become an impact player inside," Nix ended. "Then we are looking for some surprise guys like Jerrell Powe - maybe he will turn the corner.
"Right now, they are all paying the price in the offseason. They are making a commitment to being the best they can. We hope we'll see some of that work pay off when we start spring ball."
Tyrone Nix -
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