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Ole Miss Rebels Defensive Preview

You might see a defense that gives up 74 points to terrible offenses from Arkansas, Southeast Louisiana, and California and think this will be easy. Don’t do that... it’s a trap.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Former Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre took over a defense that ranked 73rd in 2018 and already has them performing as the 38th best unit in the country. They’ve given up some points and yards, but A) the schedule - and offenses in particular - have been brutal, and B) they are only truly vulnerable in a few areas.

NCAA Football: Southeastern Louisiana at Mississippi
Jacquez Jones
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive End

Josiah Coatney - R-SR: 14.5 tackles/2 TFLs/1 sack

Austrian Robinson - R-SR: 11 tackles/2 TFLs/1.5 sacks

Nose Tackle

Benito Jones - SR: 17 tackles/7.5 TFLs/3 sacks/1 INT

K.D. Hill - R-FR: x

Defensive End

Tariqious Tisdale - JR: 9.5 tackles/2 TFLs/1 sack

Quentin Bivens - R-FR: 3.5 tackles/0.5 TFLs/0.5 sacks/1 PBU

Outside Linebacker

Charles Wiley - R-JR: 10.5 tackles/3.5 TFLs/2 sacks

Qaadir Sheppard - R-SR: 7.5 tackles/1.5 TFLs/1 PBU

Inside Linebacker

Jacquez Jones - SO: 22 tackles/3.5 TFLs/0.5 sacks/1 PBU

Donta Evans - R-JR: 9 tackles/1 PBU/1 INT

Middle Linebacker

Lakia Henry - JR: 31 tackles/2 TFLs/1 sack/1 PBU

Willie Hibbler - R-SR: 13.5 tackles/0.5 TFLs/1 PBU

Outside Linebacker

Sam Williams - JR: 10 tackles/3.5 TFLs/2 sacks/1 FF

Luke Knox - R-FR: 5 tackles/2 TFLs/1 PBU

The stat: havoc rate

The Rebel front seven is excellent. 18th against the run, 9th on standard downs, 13th in limiting explosive gains on the ground, 9th in stopping third-and-medium, 8th in stopping third-and-short. Running on Ole Miss’ 3-4 has been tough this year, even for the Alabama’s of the world, because not only do they minimize efficiency plays (30th) but also stifle explosiveness on the ground (13th). Check the havoc rate at the end of this game: if multiple linemen and backers are sitting at 50% or higher that probably means the Missouri ground game was completely nullified. Especially with a hobbled Kelly Bryant/Taylor Powell at quarterback, the threat of a quarterback-designed-run won’t be as present so Rountree and Badie will have their work cut out for them.

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Mississippi
Jalen Julius
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerback

Keidron Smith - SO: 15 tackles/1 TFL/4 PBUs

Deantre Prince - FR: 6 tackles/1 INT

Strong Safety

Jon Haynes - JR: 17.5 tackles/0.5 TFLs/1 PBU/1 INT

Jay Stanley - FR: 4.5 tackles

Free Safety

Jalen Julius - R-SR: 24.5 tackles/2 TFLs/4 PBUs

Armani Linton - R-SR: 8 tackles/3 PBUs

Cornerback

Myles Hartsfield - SR: 18.5 tackles/2.5 TFLs/1 sack/2 PBUs/1 INT

Jaylon Jones - JR: 21 tackles/4 TFLs/5 PBUs

The stat: passing success rate

The secondary is active in run support and breaking up passes but that aggressiveness has lead to opponents completing their passes at an easier rate (105th) and teams have been very efficient in throwing against them (112th). The Tigers’ quarterback, whomever it is, needs to take advantage of this and run the offense as it has been used so far this season: quick, easy passes for 3-4 yards, a few passes downfield to open up the run game. The Rebels can be beat on explosive passing plays as well but, regardless of how the yards come, the passing game should be the crux of a successful day for the offense.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Mississippi
Luke Logan
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Kicker

Luke Logan - JR: 19-20 PATs (95%)/8-12 FGs (66.7%)

Punter

Mac Brown - JR: 30 punts/44.7 avg/2 touch backs (44%)

Kick Returner

Jerrion Ealy - FR: 10 returns/24.9 avg/1 TD

Punt Returner

Elijah Moore - SO: 7 returns/0.6 avg/15 fair catches

The stat: points per scoring opportunity

The returner guys for Ole Miss haven’t been anything special, and Mac Brown has been better than average in punting, but the key thing to look at with the specialists is a little more holistic: points per scoring opportunity. When the Rebel offense gets a scoring opportunity they’re averaging 4.24 points, good for 88th in the country. A big part of that is kicker Luke Logan already missing four field goals in five games. On the defensive side, the Rebels are allowing 3.81 yards per opportunity, good for 27th in the nation. Again, that defensive front is dynamite and can limit the damage an offense can do. The Mizzou offense ranks 86th in point per opportunity, by the way, and the defense ranks 31st. The number of scoring opportunities obviously matters here, but the amount of points each team is getting per opportunity will be very telling as to who is exerting their will and controlling the game.