We start our series with the Ole Miss defensive tackles. In today's college football system, the tackle's job is quite difficult. He is tasked with being a huge run stopper who can eat up blockers but also be fast enough to potentially disrupt plays against "spread" offenses. I use quotes there because I think the term is overused, but that's a topic for another day.
Last year, the defensive tackle group started rather poorly but progressed greatly as the year went on. The relatively unexpected emergence of Isaac Gross (talked about in this awesome article) and Gilbert Pena's strong play towards the end of the year were both catalysts to major production from the position. Bryon Bennett and Uriah Grant also contributed to what became a formidable group even if it was an odd group physically (Isaac Gross is too small, and Gilbert Pena was too fat for a while). I wouldn't say that the position overall became a strength, but considering what there was to work with, it seems that the coaches did a great job.
The position looks a little brighter, though I don't expect major changes. Isaac Gross is likely to be a little bigger after an offseason of working out. If he doesn't lose his explosiveness, that's a good thing. If he does... he should lose the weight. JUCO transfer Lavon Hooks arrived on campus in January and went through Spring drills. He wasn't amazing in the Spring, but the opportunity is there for the #1 junior college player. It was essential that the Rebels get a junior college defensive tackle to make up for the departures of Grant and Pena, and they nabbed the one most recruiting services considered to be the best. Bryon Bennett may end up starting over either Gross or Hooks as he seemed to come out of the Spring in good shape on the depth chart. Sophomore Woodrow Hamilton is in good position as well. The oddball here is JR Carlton Martin. Martin was highly regarded coming out of high school with Bennett. He has played in 23 of a possible 25 games during his career, but he hasn't ever really stepped up and earned legitimate time in the rotation. There's still time for the 6'2" 290 lb. tackle, but he's running low on time.
The Signing Class
While I've already mentioned Hooks, I would be remiss to leave out Herbert Moore. Rated by the 247Sports Composite as the #60 DT in the country, Moore had a good offer sheet. Aside from the Rebels, Clemson, Illinois, North Carolina, and Vanderbilt offered. I would be surprised if he played this year, but you never know. It's not a position where everything is settled.