Ole Miss Football: Help Wanted When It Comes To Defense

LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 04: Matt Luke the head coach of the Mississippi Rebels watches the action against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium on November 4, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 04: Matt Luke the head coach of the Mississippi Rebels watches the action against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium on November 4, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The calendar says we’re headed towards summer, but for Ole Miss football fans there’s no doubt it’s the season of optimism.

For Ole Miss football fans, spring practice is in the books and now we make predictions about just how good our Rebels are going to be. Nine wins? Sure why not. The offense will again be great and the defense under second year coordinator Wesley McGriff will be much improved. Wait, what?

Unfortunately, saying the defense will be improved is the optimism speaking. As if the symptoms are overtaking your body like the pollen. For those less susceptible, common sense kicks in like a needle scratching a record. “Exactly how is the defense going to be improved,” the brain asks? Meanwhile the heart just keeps racing with hopes that the NCAA will reduce the bowl ban so travel plans can be arranged for late December or early January.

Must Have Defense

Ole Miss Rebels Football
Ole Miss Rebels Football /

Ole Miss Rebels Football

All Ole Miss football fans, and by extension SEC football fans, know that defense is required to be truly successful. That the Rebels only managed six wins under interim, now full-time, head coach Matt Luke wasn’t because of outside distractions, of which there were far too many. It was because the defense was bad. 115 out of 129 bad.

The NCAA investigation, and ugly manner in which Hugh Freeze left the program can certainly be used as excuses. But if distractions were the reason the defense was so bad, how come it didn’t cause a similar effect on the offense? Ole Miss had a Top 20 offense in 2017.

The defense was bad for a number of reasons; lack of talent, a poor overall strategy to game preparation, poor scheme, and at times very poor fundamentals. Strategy, scheme and fundamentals is coaching.

Fast Not Always Best

Until Shea Patterson was replaced by Jordan Ta’amu, the offensive philosophy was to go as fast as possible. It appeared the offense either scored in four plays or punted, leaving the defense to be on the field the majority of the time. Not a good idea to give your weakest actor the majority of the lines in a play.

The defense was also woeful with fundamentals and typically out of position. For those that claim it was all a matter of talent, there are two issues; was Ole Miss less talented than even the “scheduled wins” on the schedule? South Alabama, U.T. Martin and Louisiana had no problem rolling up yardage against the Landshark Defense. And, how can the defense improve when it will be less talented this year?

No Run Defense

When it came to running against the Rebels in 2017, the Ole Miss defense was the tide that raised all boats, almost. Only Texas A&M rushed for less than their per game season average against the Rebs. On average, opponents ran for an additional 73 yards a game when going against Ole Miss.

2017 Opponent Rushing Yardage vs. Season Ave.


Season Ave. per Game

Rushing Yards vs. Ole Miss

South Alabama



UT Martin



























Texas A&M



Mississippi State



Help is clearly needed. It’s too late to improve the talent, but it is not too late to do something about the coaching. While Luke decided to stand pat with the coaching staff he inherited, he can at least provide them with some help. Look no further than Alabama. Most consider Nick Saban to be the best coach in the game right now, if not all time. Yet he’s constantly brining in respected coaches to serve as consultants.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, than flatter Saban to death by copying him Matt. Instead of spending more money on locker room improvements, spend it on coaching. Go get the best defensive minds in all of football and let them “consult” during fall camp. If they can also consult on strategy before camp begins all the better.

Next: Season Predictions!

There Are Guys Available

See how much it costs to get Dom Capers or Mike Nolan off their couch for a couple of months. You want some free publicity with that coaching, I mean consulting advice, throw some money at Rex Ryan. To assume the current assembled staff is up to the challenge of fixing the defense is nothing more than arrogance and ignorance. If Saban can hire part-time assistance, so can Matt Luke.