'D' direction pleases Nix

Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix saw what he wanted to in Saturday's scrimmage in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Meet The Rebels Day. Co-Offensive Coordinator Mike Markuson believes progress was made by the offense in fall camp. Read what both had to say inside.

Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix approached the media after Saturday's scrimmage with a smile on his face.

"It went very well," said Nix. "The most important thing was that we didn't have any major injuries. I think Safety Fon Ingram got a little banged up (twisted knee), but nobody beyond that.

"What excited me was guys were flying around and chasing the ball. I think we are going to be a physical group. We didn't have many lack-of-effort plays, which is always satisfying to a defensive coach. Our tackling has really improved and, again, we were physical and getting to the football, which impressed me."

It's not surprising that, on this day, MLB D.T. Shackelford, with three QB sacks, was the most visible player on defense.

Tyrone Nix

"D.T. has a high motor and he's emotional and gets excited about playing the game," said Tyrone. "The other guys feed off him. He makes plays and motivates everyone around him. At times, he'll get out of control and do some uncharacteristic things, but he's controlling that better, and I think he's going to make a lot of plays for us this year."

The second scrimmage of fall camp is usually when the rubber meets the road in terms of honing down personnel, establishing a firmer two-deep and figuring out who will get the bulk of the practice reps from this point until the first game of the season.

For Nix, it's also a time to see if some quality depth is developing among the younger players.

"I'm seeing some young players step up. Safety Brishen Mathews had an outstanding day. We challenged him because we have high expectations for him and he responded. Safety Jarius Williams is a kid who we just got over from receiver. He saw an opening at safety and asked us about it. I would not be surprised if he ends up helping us.

"DE Carlos Thompson showed flashes today as well. It's good to see those young DLs have good days. We have some other kids on the defensive line who look good as well, like DT Carlton Martin. He's shown signs."

OLB Clarence Jackson is also making some noise and making a positive impression.

"Clarence is learning a little more every day. And as he learns, he's playing faster and faster. He may be one of our fastest linebackers right now," Nix stated. "It's exciting to see him grow and develop. After one week, he was second team and he's holding on to that steadily. He's not repeating the same mistakes.

"If he continues in this direction, he has the potential to be a starter. He has real good potential and if he will continue to learn, he could move into a starting role this year. He is definitely going to battle for playing time."

Tyrone revels in the fact his crew has had to go against three different type of quarterbacks on the Rebel offense in camp.

Clarence Jackson

"It's a challenge because they are all different and they all present problems to a defense," he explained. "It's been great for us because we will see different type quarterbacks all year and this will help us down the road. It's great to see that and compete against them.

"When we see an offense with a two-quarterback system, it's more challenging for the kids because we have to go into a game with two different packages. With our QBs on our team, that will not be a shock to us when we see that this year."

But when the dust clears, it's all football and it gets back to the basics. Nix has been happy with the Rebel defense's basics to this point.

"The bottom line, no matter who you are facing, it turns into basic football. Getting off the line, chasing the ball and tackling," Nix closed. "Our kids are doing that and they are getting better. As a coach, I can see room for improvement, but I think they are right on schedule right now." Co-OC Mike Markuson saw some ups and downs in the offensive line, which is where every conversation with Mike starts since he coaches the OL.

"We were good and bad. We had too many penalties, especially one on the goal line going in," he said. "At this point in camp, we've made some plays and we've had period when we did not produce.

"All of them have done well and all of them have messed up. We just have to keep correcting and keep going forward."

The mindset of the coaches will change this week after classes start. There won't be as many players repped as much, so the ones who will be playing can have more opportunity to get better.

"It will be different by Wednesday or so. We'll reduce the number of guys who get reps and start getting ready for the first game. The focus will change and the guys we're relying on should start getting better and better and more focused on being a cohesive unit," he added.

Even though David Rader, the co-offensive coordinator with Mike, handles the quarterbacks, for the time being Mike is the offensive spokesman with the media for the most part.

"We've got one guy who is a classic dropback thrower (Nathan Stanley) and two guys who are classic option/scramble guys (Jeremiah Masoli and Randall Mackey) who can also operate in the dropback passing game," he noted. "We have two guys who can run around and buy time. Stanley is a taller guy who can see everything under center a little better.

Mike Markuson

"The bottom line to us is that we have a great situation because we have three really good guys. Two of them are younger and haven't played much, but they are talented, and Masoli has experience," he continued. "We have not discussed - yet - how we are going to use each, but that day is coming quickly. It's hard to rep three guys, just like it's hard to rep 10 OL.

"We'll be making some decisions soon but it's all about who will move the team and who will make plays for us. We're looking for a flawless guy who makes plays."

Markuson is happy with the running back situation and the overall running game to this point.

"Between Brandon Bolden, Enrique Davis and both the Scotts (Rodney and Jeff) we've got a good situation there," Mike said. "And then there's Devin Thomas, who has done a good job. Again, we can't rep all those guys either.

"We have some hard conversations as a staff ahead of us. Who's going to get it done? Who's going to make it happen without making mistakes? All I know right now is that we have made some explosive runs in camp. We've had power runs, outside runs. We have guys who can run around you or run through you. We like what we have seen so far because we have options."

Our wide, in Markuson's mind, Melvin Harris has been one of the MVPs of fall camp.

"I can't speak for the rest of the coaches, but I say he's one of the offensive MVPs of this camp. He has clearly stepped up at the receiver position - blocking, attacking the ball, running good routes and being a team guy. He's done it all and we are really proud of him," Markuson closed. "We have some other good receivers who have done some excellent things in camp, but Melvin has been super so far."

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