4. Ole Miss College Football Preview 2021: Defense
– The Outback Bowl win over Indiana provided a little hope for the defense. The Ole Miss D got roasted – it finished as the second-worst in the nation allowing 519 yards and 38 points per game – but the group all but shut down the Hoosiers for three quarters in the 26-20 win. Now there’s a veteran group returning.
The coaching staff – starting with co-defensive coordinators DJ Durkin and Chris Partridge – is too good not to fix this, and it all starts with a line that has to do more to get into the backfield.
– The defensive tackles are there in 320-pound junior KD Hill and 305-pound senior Hal Northern, but there wasn’t any semblance of a pass rush from the ends. The pressure will mostly come from the outside linebackers when the Rebels are in a 3-4 alignment, but the rotation on the outside has to bring more pop.
– There was no problem with experience at linebacker, but now there’s a bit of a concern. Leading tackler Jacquez Jones took off for Kentucky – he was the team’s best defensive player – but senior Lakia Henry is a 235-pounder who can thump.
Outside of Henry, it’s about finding the hybrid-types for the outside to generate more pressure. 265-pound senior Sam Williams led the team with four sacks and 240-pound sophomore Cedric Johnson came up with three.
– With the return of senior Jon Haynes, everyone is back in the secondary for defensive back coach Terrell Buckley to work with. This group was rolled way too often, but to be fair, it didn’t get a whole lot of help from the pass rush. 6-2, 200-pound junior AJ Finley led the team with three picks from his free safety spot, but this very big, experienced group of DBs has to generate more big things.