'Crootin breakdown: D-backs

Everyone loves a shutdown corner. At least, I know I do. 

The Rebels have not in recent history had a Champ Bailey, Darrelle Revis, Deion Sanders or Charles Woodson. Okay, maybe not Deion, but you know what I mean.

With the SEC being "all about speed," the secondary can be vital not only to stopping some of the fastest WR in the country but also stepping up and making open field tackles against some of the best halfbacks in the nation.

Ole Miss made the secondary a priority this recruiting season by signing six players who project as either cornerbacks or safeties. This includes three well-recruited corners and a safety who could start every game next season.

Who's gone: Kendrick Lewis, Marshay Green, Cassius Vaughn

Who's still around: Johnny Brown, Marcus Temple, Jeremy McGee, George Helow, Ryan Campbell, Julian Whitehead, Rudy Wilson, Frank Crawford, Fon Ingram, Dele Junaid, Lekenwic Haynes, Charles Sawyer, Demareo Marr, Brandon Sanders

Who's joining the Rebels: Cliff Coleman, Brishen Mathews, Tony Grimes, Damien Jackson, Cedric Smith and Eric Mitchell

Wow, who knew the Rebels had so many players on its roster slated to play in the secondary? Not this guy. There's about 17 players on the roster with CB, DB or S beside their names. I would expect maybe eight or nine of these guys to see significant time over the next couple years. The others may only ever see the field on special teams or on a practice field(maybe one will end up having his name chanted ala Rudy Ruettiger...prob not).

The Rebels lost three starters from its secondary in Green, Lewis and Vaughn. We'll talk about who the projected starters could be once the spring comes around since there is a treasure trove of talent among our current players.

The newly signed Rebels have a lot to offer, however. 

Cliff Coleman(5'10'', 180 lbs) is a Miami, FL native who was rated in the top 100 by every national recruiting service. Miami, Florida State and West Virginia also offered Coleman, which is indicative of his playing ability. FSU pulled in a fantastic recruiting class, and Coleman could have felt like he was just another player there.

Coleman, if not redshirted, would probably be able to play in defensive sets calling for six players in the secondary. He's got the right body for a CB, so speed will be the main attribute we'll be watching for in August.

Brishen "Spirit'd" Mathews(6'1'', 195 lbs) hails from the great city of Monticello, AR. Mathews has played S and RB in the past in high school, rushing for nearly 1,000 his junior season. Recruiting experts put him in the top five for players from Arkansas.

Mathews notched seven interceptions during his junior and senior seasons combined. He's also a white guy, so message boards are pretty infatuated with his potential to play in the SEC. 

I see Mathews as a Coach Nutt guy, because he spurned Arkansas to be a Rebel. His ability to be "coached up" to the next level could be his x-factor.

Tony Grimes(5'11'', 165 lbs) comes to Oxford from Hollywood Hills, FL and is probably the most highly sought after CBs of this crop. Offers from UGA, 'Bama and Ohio State were reported for Grimes. 

Grimes snatched 10 INT's in his junior and senior seasons combined. He probably needs to put on a few pounds, but looks to have a frame to support 180 or 190 lbs. This could be another case where a young CB needs a year or two to learn the position, learn the grind of a season in the SEC and then step up to play as a sophomore or junior.

Damien Jackson(6'3'', 205 lbs) played the past couple years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College with the likes of Wayne Dorsey.  He reportedly has sub 4.5 speed in the 40 yard dash and is physically capable to play right away with the best of our secondary prospects.

From the following video, you should notice his closing speed on thrown passes and fearlessness to come up and hit gaps to make plays against rushing offenses. Jackson will fill in nicely with current safeties Fon Ingram and Johnny Brown. 


Cedric Smith(5'10'', 170 lbs) was one player who Rebel fans didn't expect to sign on Wednesday with Ole Miss. Smith apparently had committed to Arkansas State and was waiting for an SEC offer. The Rebels were the first to give Smith what he wanted though he was listed as a top 100 CB and one of the best in the state of Alabama.

I'd be a little wary that Auburn or 'Bama didn't jump on Smith, so it will be interesting to see what happens with him. He may play with a chip on his shoulder to prove he's SEC quality. It'd be nice for him to gain a little more weight as long as he doesn't lose any speed(he reportedly runs a 4.5 40 yard dash).

Eric Mitchell(5'11'', 175 lbs) joined WR Quadarius Mireles from Atlantic HS in Delray, FL. Mitchell also played some RB in high school and could later be used as a punt or kick returner depending on his ability.

This is another player that was not on many red and blue radars heading into signing day. If the height and weight reported on the athletic Web site is accurate, Mitchell could be a steal out of the Sunshine State. As the cliche goes, only time will tell.

As far as we know, all of these players have no academic or eligibility issues and none are sign and place. 

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