September 21, 2011

Breakdown: Ole Miss Defense

Ole Miss Defense
Defensive Line

Ole Miss has a strong reputation for developing big, disruptive defensive linemen but 2011 has been an exception to this point. The Rebels are experienced but undersized at the defensive end positions and lack speed and athleticism across their front line.

The best of the bunch is senior Wayne Dorsey. Dorsey has a quick first step and can be dangerous when he can rush off the edge in certain passing downs. He is, however, a defensive liability against the run.

Ole Miss has two defensive tackles that also have experience and decent size, but they, like the offensive line, lack athleticism. They do not recover well from cut blocks and they are not strong in pursuit.


The linebackers are big and physical, but have little experience. Ralph Williams is a true freshman starter that struggled with his keys against Vanderbilt's zone read scheme. William also struggles in pass coverage as he looks to be uncomfortable in space.

Mike Marry is the other line backer in defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix's base 4-2 set and he is the run stopper. Marry is a big linebacker at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds and is a solid downhill tackler. He, like Williams, struggles in space and lacks the lateral speed to play sideline to sideline.

The linebackers also tend to play deep (6-7 yards) which creates space in the three to four yard area on the defensive side of the line of scrimmage. Teams have exploited this tendency in the last two games as Southern Illinois and Vanderbilt rushed for 223 yards and 281 yards respectively.

Defensive Backs

The Rebels have some of the fastest and most athletic defensive backs in the SEC. They also have some of the smallest defensive backs in the league. Junior Spur Safety Aaron Garbutt is their biggest defensive back at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds but he is a hybrid linebacker/safety and usually plays in the box.

Outside of Garbutt, the Ole Miss secondary doesn't have a player listed over 188 pounds. While size is not the most important attribute when bringing down a ball carrier, it is helpful and appears to be the reason for their poor tackling thus far.

Opposing running backs have been able to run through tackles and pick up big plays due to missed tackles in the Ole Miss secondary.

Wesley Temple and Marcus Pendleton are veteran SEC corners who are solid in coverage and can excel in man coverage. They have also been exploited by bigger, more physical receivers in key situations thus far in 2011.

Defensive Tendencies

1st Down - \ Nix loves to attack and he starts on first down. There is no true tendency for first down except that the Rebels have blitzed from the inside 39% of the time.

2nd Down - Again, the Rebels love to blitz on second down and in any distance. The tendency on second down changes from inside pressure to outside pressure and Ole Miss will bring a blitz from the edge about 42% of the time.

3rd Down

• Long (7+ yards) - Despite his attacking philosophy, Nix tends to hang back on third and long and keep things in front. Third down is a Cover 2 down for the Rebels 41% of the time. They will also run some Cover 3 (Three deep safeties) if the distance is longer than 10 yards.

• Medium (4-7 yards) - While Nix may play it more conservatively on third and long, he will attack more on third and medium. The Rebels have brought pressure from either the inside or the outside 57% of the time on third and medium so far this year.

• Short (4 yards and under) - Like most teams, Ole Miss will put an extra defender in the box on third and short unless a team shows them a spread formation. It is unclear whether they are bringing run blitzes on third and short, but their linebackers attack the first available rushing lane in order to prevent a conversion. They also tend to play man coverage (48%). Although this coverage makes them vulnerable to big plays from the tight end and slot receivers, their opponents have yet to exploit this weakness.

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