Ole Miss Football: Rebels Secondary Expected To Be Solid In 2018


Finally we are less than a week from the kickoff of the 2018 Ole Miss football season and we anxious to see improvements from Rebels secondary.

In just five long days we will finally have Ole Miss football and we will be able to see what we can expect this season. While we are fairly certain the Ole Miss offense will be among the best in the nation, we do have questions on the defense. Rebels fans saw a defense in which much of the depth was young and inexperienced. Was is the key word because now there is solid depth at some key positions and the secondary is the deepest.

In 2017 we watched as the Rebels secondary went thru obvious growing pains but got better by the end of the season. The Rebels DB’s finished the season with 8 total INTs which isn’t bad however they did allow 214.2 yards per game and allowed 18 TDs. There were moments when the secondary played solid but there were also moments which we saw busted coverages and players out of position which resulted in long plays and scores. Now the Rebels DBs are more experienced.

The 2018 Rebels secondary returns the bulk of starters and backups from last season and now have  year of growth and experience under their belts. There are 20 defensive backs on the Ole Miss roster so the depth is surely no issue. And when you look at the projected starters they are impressive in the secondary. Of course, we can’t be 100% of exactly who will be the starters for Texas Tech but we have a good idea who to look for where. Still we take a look at the Rebels secondary.

Returners Likely Get Starts

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Depending on how healthy the Rebels are for the season opener in Houston against Texas Tech will play heavily into who starts in the secondary. The injury bug hasn’t run rampant in fall practice but has hit the secondary with some minor issues. What it has also done is allow coach Wesley McGriff to make some personnel adjustments which shows the depth of the secondary. With the injuries side-lining a few Rebels some younger players were able to step up and get snaps with the starters.

For now we expect to see senior Ken Webster, providing he is back from a tweaked hamstring, to make the start for the Rebels at corner-back. We can also expect to see junior Javien Hamilton get the corner-back start across the field. At strong safety we can expect to see the 2018 Chucky Mullins Award winner senior CJ Moore start while senior Zedrick Woods starts at free safety.

Who makes the start at the nickel-back position or STAR is still a question but each player on the depth chart is solid at the position. For now we can expect junior Myles Hartsfield to make the start if Webster can go at corner. Hartsfield has been slotted to be at corner should Webster be unavailable. However, we seriously doubt we have to worry about it for the season opener. If Hartsfield does make the start at corner then the STAR starter will be either JC transfer Vernon Davis or sophomore Montrell Custis.

Experience Is The Key

This is an experienced starting group however you line it up. Senior Ken Webster comes into 2018 with 20 starts and is primed for a big season. In 2017 Webster finished with 29 tackles, 1.5 TFLs and 2 pass breakups. At the other corner Javien  Hamilton has had extensive playing time and finished the 2017 season with 20 total tackles, 8 pass breakups and 3 INTs. Senior CJ Moore enters the 2017 season having played in 37 games while making five starts in the Rebels secondary. Moore finished the 2017 season with 51 tackles, 2.5 TFLs and 3 INTs. Senior Zedrick Woods has 23 career starts and finished 2017 with 64 tackles, 1 TFL, 4 pass breakups and 1 QBH.

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Now we get to the STAR position again. OHT really likes junior Myles Hartsfield as the starter for Texas Tech. Hartsfield comes into the 2018 with 22 starts in the Rebels secondary and finished the 2017 season with 34 tackles, 2 TFLs and 1 INT. Once again whether Hartsfield starts at STAR or corner-back remains to be seen. OHT believes corner-back Webster should be ready for the start which means Hartsfield will be the STAR starter.

The Expected Backups

Too close to call at this point we believe junior Montrell Custis or JUCO transfer Vernon Dasher will be the No.2 and No.3 on the depth chart at STAR behind Hartsfield. Custis has had extensive playing time but it has been as a backup. However, Custis did finish the 2017 season with 11 tackles and a fumble recovery. This leaves Dasher who will be in his first season in the Rebels secondary. Highly touted in the juco ranks we are anxious to see what he brings.

As for the rest of the backups we see junior Jaylon Jones in support for Hamilton at corner. At strong safety we will see sophomore CJ MIller at backup for Woods and red-shirt freshman Kam White in support for Moore at free safety. Jones, Miller and White are all very good defensive backs and regardless of who makes the start will certainly be in the game time rotation in the Rebels secondary. Also figuring into the OHT projected Rebels secondary rotation is senior Cam Ordway, junior Jalen Julius and freshmen JaKorey Hawkins, Keidron Smith and AJ Harris.

In Less Than A Week

So now in less than a week we will have some of our questions answered about this secondary and the season ahead. They should get plenty of action in the season opener against Texas Tech who is widely known to have a solid passing attack. So far this secondary has seen a variety of different line-ups and alignments and the word from the NWO is they have been handling themselves against the nation’s best WR corps. That should make all of us breathe a little easier this Saturday.

Also benefiting the Rebels secondary is the return of former Rebels defensive standout coach Charles Clark to assist DC Wesley McGriff and coach Jason Jones. Clark brings a wealth of knowledge to the already experienced secondary coaching staff and it will show with this season. If we expect to see the return of the ball hawks in the Landshark Defense then this is a very good group to bank on. Besides being very experienced and very deep they are also very talented and will be playing aggressively in 2018.

It is expected coach Matt Luke will release the starting depth chart early this week and OHT will be providing updates. Thankfully, the 2018 Ole Miss football season is almost here. In five long days we will see these Rebels and the rest of the Ole Miss football team in the season opener on September 1. Ole Miss will be in Houston, Texas taking on Big12 foe Texas Tech. Kickoff is set for 11am CT and the game will be televised via ESPN. Of course, we wish all of our Rebels, players and staff, good luck against the Red Raiders! Hotty Toddy!