Depth Charge

Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix knows his first 11 are going to be a pretty good bunch, but what about his next 11? Their development was his spring goal. Read about it inside.

Eleven used to be the most important, and magic, number in football.

If you could muster up 11 good players on both sides of the ball, you might have yourself a pretty good club.

The times, they have changed.

Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix knows that as well as anyone.

"You can fool yourself into thinking injuries won't happen, but in this league, they will," said Nix. "You have to prepare for the inevitable."

Consequently, Nix's main goal for spring training was to get his two-deep depth chart shored up.

Damien Jackson

He accomplished that in some areas and in others, there is still development to do.

"I feel real good about our defense overall and what we did in the spring, but the people on the inside, the coaches, know we have a lot of work to do," Tyrone said. "We looked real good at times this spring, but a lot of that was our strength - our front - was going against the least experienced of the offense - the offensive line. When the front is clicking, everything clicks.

"We should be a real good defense, but I'm not gauging it a lot by how we performed against our inexperienced OL."

On the contrary, Nix was going by what his and his staff's trained eyes were telling them.

Good, improved and heading in the right direction, but not great and not ideally deep enough - yet.

"Realistically, we need to have a good summer and come back in here stronger," he stated, "especially with a couple of our starters and five or six of our backups."

He took a close look and did an honest evaluation of several younger players and their progress.

Wayne Dorsey

"Up front, I feel real good about three of the four positions - the Bandit, NT and DT. At defensive end, we've still got work to do," he explained. "Jerrell Powe, Ted Laurent and Lawon Scott can compete against anyone. Our fourth, LaMark Armour, was injured some of spring and didn't progress like I hoped, but we think he will be solid for us in spots.

"At Bandit, Kentrell Lockett is real good against the run and the pass and has become a better pass rusher this spring. Gerald Rivers helped himself a lot this spring, so that rotation is good and solid. In fact, you could see Rivers and Lockett on the field at the same time some next year."

Even though Nix is very happy to have JUCO transfer Wayne Dorsey and Cameron Whigham, they are not where he wants them yet.

"They both need to have monster offseasons and get stronger. Dorsey has to develop some more with his consistency, his strength and with his knowledge of the scheme. Whigham made a jump too, but they are not Hardy, Tillman or Stephens yet.

"They have the potential to be, but they have to reach that potential quickly. We could also see a freshman DE make an impact, but that's tough to do at that position in this league."

Nix feels real comfortable with five linebackers, meaning he's two-deep at two positions, but not yet at the other.

"Jonathan Cornell and D.T. Shackelford are really good in the middle. We're fine there. Allen Walker missed some reps this spring that allowed Mike Marry to get a lot of snaps and improve quickly. We are fine at Sam," he stated. "Joel Kight is solid at Will, but our backup situation there is not where we want it. I do not think our backups there took advantage of the opportunity they had. We are still working to develop a tandem there and we are not there yet."

In the secondary, Nix is looking for a fourth safety and a fourth corner.

"I think our top three corners did very well - Marcus Temple, Jeremy McGee and Charles Sawyer, but we still need a fourth," Tyrone assessed.

Charles Sawyer

"Ryan Campbell closed the gap some toward the end of spring after getting burned badly early in spring. I'd like for him to make the jump by September, but he's not ready yet.

"At safety, the addition of Damien Jackson to go along with Fon Ingram and Johnny Brown gives us three safeties ready for play, but I'm still hunting a fourth guy there as well."

Overall, Nix feels he has a solid two-deep at seven positions and four positions are a work in progress, with as asterisk.

"I think we have the potential to get it done by the time the season rolls around, but some guys are going to have to have really good summers and August camps," he stated. "The bottom line is that we are off to a real good start toward our goal.

"The reason I think we will be OK is because we have gotten good leadership and the commitment level of the players is very, very good."

The magic number, though, is now 22.

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