Ole Miss Football: Wesley McGriff and Rebels Focused on Stopping Run

OXFORD, MS - NOVEMBER 21: Christian Russell #20 of the Mississippi Rebels reacts to a defensive stop during the second quarter of a game against the LSU Tigers at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on November 21, 2015 in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - NOVEMBER 21: Christian Russell #20 of the Mississippi Rebels reacts to a defensive stop during the second quarter of a game against the LSU Tigers at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on November 21, 2015 in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

With kickoff of the 2018 Ole Miss football season we hope to see the Landshark Defense and we may because the Rebels are focused on stopping the run.

The 2018 Ole Miss football season is now just a week away and as the anticipation builds among fans there are still worries. We can be fairly certain of what we are getting from the offense in 2018 but when it comes to the defense we have legitimate concerns. In 2017 we watched the defense give up huge amounts of yardage on the ground and especially late in games. The Rebels lost four of their top ten tacklers from last season and we are left to wait and wonder what this season holds.

Matt Luke and Wesley McGriff have been planning for the 2018 season but it didn’t begin with the Rebels fall camp. No in fact it began just after the 2017 Ole Miss football season when the focus was on recruiting. After all was said and done the 2018 Ole Miss recruiting class finished ranked 30th in the nation with 22 signees. With a huge focus on defense 14 of the 22 signees were highly touted defensive players. The position group breakdown finished with 7 defensive linemen, 5 line-backers and 4 defensive backs. .

We know from the Rebels fall camp there has been a lot of time spent on the run both at the line and the second level. There have been a number of younger players who have stepped up big time and have been competing hard for spots on the depth chart. We can expect to see quite a few new Rebels on the field this fall on the defensive side of the ball. From what we can gather from coach Wesley McGriff this team has been very pleased with the newcomers and have been working them into the defensive game plan.

The Problem And Solution

More from Ole Miss Football

Last season we saw a defense which gave up 5,514 yards of total offense, averaging 459.5 yards per game and allowed 51 total TDs. On the ground the Rebels allowed 2, 944 yards, averaging 245.3 yards per game and 29 TDs. The Rebels allowed a 5.4 yard per carry average In 2017.

The Rebels run defense was porous at best but did get better later in the season. However, most of the time we watched the Rebels get gassed on long drives because they couldn’t make stops. How do you remedy that?

First, it goes back to recruiting a lot of fresh new talent at the point of the problem. With 12 new bodies available in the box McGriff has clearly addressed the depth issues on the defensive line and also at the line-backer position. This allows coaches  McGriff, Freddie Roach and Jon Sumrall to pick and choose from a much deeper talent pool.

First Line Of Defense

Coach Matt Luke and his staff will likely release their season opening depth chart for Texas Tech some time shortly after this weekend. The roster is loaded with 17 defensive linemen to choose from so finding the best front four starters wont be easy. While for now we can’t actually be sure of who will be starting but we can look at what Luke and his staff have to choose from and make our own projections.

Related Story. Burning Questions.... light

At the defensive ends we will see seniors Victor Evans and Markell Winters, juniors Qaadir Sheppard,  Austrian Robinson and  Brenden Williams. They are joined by sophomores Ryder Anderson, Charles Wiley and Ty Reyes. Also figuring into the mix is 2018 signee sophomore transfer Tariqious Tisdale. While we expect Sheppard and Robinson draw the starts we can expect Evans and Anderson to figure heavily into the rotation. Don’t be surprised by a newcomer to the defense like Tisdale.

When it comes to the defensive tackle position the Rebels starters are solid and with 6 available back-ups on the roster the depth is good. We will see juniors Josiah Coatney and Benito Jones make the starts at DT and NT respectively. Coatney has 12 career starts and was named 2018 Preseason Fourth Team All-SEC by Athlon while Jones has 14 career starts and was named 2018 Preseason Second Team All-SEC by Phil Steele.

Red-shirt freshman Sincere David who normally backs up Coatney is out with a sprained MCL and may be unavailable for Texas Tech but should be back and good to go soon. This leaves senior Ross Donnelly, who backs up Jones to possibly also back up Coatney. However, with the depth the Rebels have we can expect to see a few other DT’s in the mix. Junior Hal Northern and freshman Quentin Bivens could easily see significant snaps if needed. Also available is senior Jordan Hebert who could see playing time in the DT rotation.

Second Level Of Defense

This is the biggest area of concern on the Ole Miss defense for many fans. It’s understandable after the past couple of seasons to be somewhat skeptical about this position group. The Rebels 2017 tackles leader linebacker DeMarquis Gates is now gone and will be hard to replace. However, Matt Luke, Wesley McGriff, and Jon Sumrall do have a talented depth pool of 13 linebackers to evalutate and choose from.

The Rebels have some really great young talent like sophomore middle-linebacker Mohamed Sanogo who will likely be the starter in the season opener. Sanogo is inexperienced and unproven but according to Ben Garrett of OMSpirit, Sanogo and the entire linebacker corps is set to prove their critics wrong. Providing support behind Sanogo in the middle are true-freshman Jacquez Jones and senior Detric Bing-Dukes.

At outside linebacker there is still a battle going on between true-freshman Kevontae’ Ruggs and junior Willie Hibbler. Then there is also red-shirt freshmen Josh Clarke, Amani Johnson and Zikerrion Baker on the depth chart. Coach Jon Sumrall also has a bunch of even younger LBs to provide added support at both the middle and outside. True freshmen Johnathan Hess, Luke Knox, Truett Bourne and Andrew Griffith will also be available.

Next. 5 Keys To Success In 2018. dark

So Now We Wait

We have less than a week left to wait and we’ll see just how good the Ole Miss football defense will be. What we do know is coaches Wesley McGriff, Freddie Roach and Jon Sumrall have worked these defensive groups hard and will have the best Rebels on the field when they face Texas Tech on September 1. OHT will be updating readers with the latest depth chart and practice updates as they come out. Good luck to all of these Rebels and the rest of the defense in the 2018 season. Hotty Toddy!