Respect Served

Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix says Cotton Bowl opponent Oklahoma State hasn't won nine games without some special ingredients. One of those is their offense, which Nix has a healthy respect for. Read about it inside.

A good quarterback, a solid run game and playmakers in the passing game are a recipe for a good offense.

Oklahoma State has all those ingredients and has drawn Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix's attention as the Cotton Bowl match against the Cowboys looms.

"Zac Robinson is a dual-threat quarterback. He's very smart and can make plays with his feet and his arm," said Nix. "It seems like even when their protection breaks down he's still able to make a play in the passing game. He's also a threat in the run game."

The Cowboys' playmaking ability doesn't stop with Robinson, however.

"They have several guys - running backs, receivers. They are not a one-man team," Nix continued. "They have recruited well there and have good ballplayers. They have several guys out wide who can go up and get the ball and they have two running backs who are elusive and powerful. If I am not mistaken, they led the Big 12 in rushing, so you know they have good backs.

"Their offensive line is good and their backs are good."

The Cowboys got shut down in the last game of the regular season by Oklahoma, but Nix believes that was a bit deceptive.

"I watched that tape and it was just one of those days when Oklahoma got the breaks. Oklahoma State had some plays out there to be made, but they just didn't make them," noted Nix. "They were not physically beaten by Oklahoma, they were out executed and out performed."

The Cowboys lost All-American WR Dez Bryant earlier in the season, but Nix said they haven't missed too much of a beat.

"They haven't changed anything they are doing. They just had some guys step up to take Bryant's place," said Tyrone. "It's always hard to lose an All-American, but they have plenty of talented receivers that stepped up. They are still explosive."

The Ole Miss defense are expected to have a pretty healthy Greg Hardy back. Backup MLB D.T. Shackelford has finally recovered from bad ankles most of the season and is back in good form. OLB Patrick Trahan, who's been having foot problems, practiced the last three days and "felt good" before the Christmas break.

"It's good to have all those guys back and for everyone to be somewhat healthy and rested. It just gives us more depth to keep everyone fresh and rested during the game," he said.

A good portion of the on-campus Cotton Bowl practices focused on the younger players on the squad.

Nix's impressions?

"The newcomer who has really stood out is LB Mike Marry. He's done really well. He's going to be a force. He's a big backer who should be able to step up in those gaps and stuff the run," Tyrone stated. "Cameron Whigham is also an exciting newcomer. We are losing three of our top four ends and we need players there. Cameron has done well for a first look kind of scenario.

"At end, we are also hoping Gerald Rivers can come on strong by next year. He's got to keep getting bigger and stronger, but we think he can get there."

The Rebel defense is also losing their two starting cornerbacks. Nix was asked about redshirts Charles Sawyer and Ryan Campbell.

"I think Charles has a chance to start next year. It all depends on his progression during spring, but I really like that young man," Tryone assessed. "Ryan has to continue to grow. I like both of them to be in the rotation next year.

"Charles has all the tools. He has awareness and he's not afraid."

That's way down the road, though, as far as Nix is concerned.

First things first.

"We've got a big challenge in the Cotton Bowl. We've got to play very well and have a good week of practice leading up to the game once we get out there in Dallas," he closed.

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