Ole Miss Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Mike Markuson feels the defense of Cotton Bowl opponent Oklahoma State will be a big test for the Rebels when they line up in Cowsboy Stadium Saturday afternoon.
But he admits he's having a hard time determining just how good the Cowboys defense is because of the style of play in the Big 12 versus the style of play in the SEC.
"You're guessing a little bit because their league is different from ours," Mike said. "They don't see as much run as we see in our league. When you are scouting them and watching film, you wonder how they will respond to us.
"They are going to give us their very best, we're sure of that, and we know they are well-coached."
Markuson likes OSU's look on film.
"They run after the ball well. They are pretty phyhsical and they have a great linebacker in Booker who is outstanding," he continued.
OSU's Defensive Coordinator Bill Young also impresses Mike.
"Coach Young will not get real fancy. They move and slant, but they just basically line up and play good fundamental football with limited mistakes," he noted. "They are very sound in covering their gaps. They are well-schooled.
"I'm sure they will have some new wrinkles for us and we've a few for them. It will be a good chess game to try and hone in on what they are doing and them trying to hone in on what we are doing."
Markuson said the OSU defense is aggressive in their calls, but it's controlled aggression.
"They blitz, but they aren't going to throw a whole dictionary of blitzes at you," he said. "They do what they do and they do it every game. Their whole deal is not trickery but execution of what they run.
"Like I said, they will come up with something for the bowl game, but we'll see mostly what they have shown all year, with is a solid and sound scheme run well," Mike assessed. "We have worked on twists and stunts and blitz pickups. We've really had great work leading up to this bowl.
"It's been really good here in Dallas and the guys worked hard before we came out here. I have been very proud in their bowl preparations. I expect us to play well up front."
Prior to coming to Dallas, Markuson got a chance to work some with some of the younger players who will be counted on next year, starting with Center A.J. Hawkins.
"A.J. has a tremendous amount of ability. He's a good athlete and is working hard to learn the intricacies of being a center - snapping and stepping at the same time, making sure his snaps are clean and things like that," Mike evalautged. "He's got a chance to be a good one in time, but like all those young kids spring and the offseason are very vital to them.
"Logan Clair has also impressed me. He has helped himself a lot with his body and his strength during his redshirt year. He's become more consistent on the field because of being better prepared physically for the demands on this level."
Josh Tatum, who sat out this year in order to get his academics straight, which he did, also caught Mike's eye during the year.
"Josh has grown up a lot, on and off the field. He's strong and has been playing real physically lately," Mike added. "I was impressed with how physical he was in bowl practices. He's a guy who has to help us. He's strong and we have got to have him.
"Emmanuel McCray is another kid who stood out. He's getting bigger and stronger and has a lot of ability. He'll get stronger and I was pleased with what he did in bowl practices. All he has to do is get in that weight room and do what Don tells him to do and he can be the real deal."
Mike is also hopeful Rishaw Johnson will come off his suspension and be ready for spring training.
"He's abiding by the rules now and getting his life right. He wants to be a part of this team, I know it," said said. "I've talked to him and I believe he's on the right path to returning and being a big part of our OL next year."
Markuson knows the Rebels have big shoes to fill in the middle of the OL and a lot of work to do but he's optimistic.
"The great thing is that Coach (Don) Decker gets them for a few months and Don will develop those kids a lot in that time frame to get these younger guys bigger and stronger," he noted. "We'll be working hard to find the top five in spring and putting the pieces of the puzzle together. It will work out. It always does, but we know the effort required to get it right."
How Good Is OSU's Defense?
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