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Ole Miss’ bad run defense isn’t just the linebackers’ fault

The highly-touted defensive line has struggled as well.

Auburn v Mississippi Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images

In the past two weeks, the Ole Miss defense has been trod upon for 618 total rushing yards, a number so staggering that the 2011 Tyrone Nix defense just did a double take, followed by a triple take. Throw in the 334 and 200 rushing yards the Rebels surrendered against Alabama and Arkansas, respectively, and you’ve got a total of 1,152 rushing allowed against four SEC West teams.

Because the defense fails to stop the run, they can’t get off the field and they give up explosive plays (both run and pass). Combined, those two things mean the yards and points are going to pile up for the opposing offense.

There are many beliefs as to why this wreck keeps repeating itself, but nearly all of them fall under the umbrellas of lack of overall talent and coaching failures. While we can engage in internet debate (the BEST KIND OF DEBATE) over the merits of both, I want to look at what’s happening on individual plays to see if we can spot where the disasters happened.

To save myself time and temporary blindness from the pain, I only watched Auburn’s offensive plays because I figured reviewing 307 rushing yards would reveal the same breakdowns that occurred in the other three games. What I found was that most successful plays for Auburn fell into one of three categories:

  • The D-line and linebackers both got destroyed.
  • The D-line held up but the linebackers collapsed.
  • The D-line got beat and allowed blockers to get on linebackers.

Lets go through each category.

The D-line and linebackers both get destroyed.

Much has been said about Ole Miss’ poor linebacker play, but the defensive line has not been very good this year either. Auburn’s offensive line spent most of the game pushing them into the very spots where they wanted to push them.

Observe the Tigers’ second play of the dang game:

Auburn’s offensive line will shove the entire Ole Miss defensive line to the left and pull the left guard, while the linebackers, well, I don’t know.

Something similar happens later in the game. Ole Miss has the numbers advantage in the box, but the Auburn offensive line displaces the majority of the Rebels’ defense and lets the left guard go to work again.

Incredibly, this play only went for 16 yards. However, after being tackled, Auburn went fast, ran the same play again, and gained 56 yards.

Our final play in this category showcases the defensive line not making a play and a linebacker not getting to the edge to cut a play off.

The D-line holds up but the linebackers collapse.

We’ve heard Hugh Freeze and Dave Wommack go on and on about the defense not getting in the proper run fits. Well, sometimes even when they do, it doesn’t matter.

Ole Miss once again has the numbers advantage. As you’ll see, the defensive line does a nice job of keeping offensive linemen off the linebackers.

There is a decent hole in the interior defensive line, but the Rebels’ defense has someone in position to block every path available to Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway. Unfortunately, it matters not.

The D-line gets beat and allows blockers to get on linebackers.

Even if you have really good linebackers, they can be rendered ineffective by large adults looking to smash them into the ground, especially when given an open lane to do so. Ole Miss does not have a plethora of talented linebackers, so the result of offensive linemen reaching them with no resistance is quite devastating.

Whoops, sorry about that. Just wanted to see what the Ole Miss student section looked like with 11 minutes to go and the Rebels down by one against a ranked conference opponent. Good job, good effort.

Anyway, back to the dissection.

Once again, we see the Ole Miss defensive line get shoved out of the way and the two linebackers are about to be covered in tire tracks.

And here’s more of the same.

An excellent way to allow 7.9 yards per carry for a running back.

If we’ve learned anything from today’s exercise, it’s that watching game replays drains your soul and, while blaming the linebackers for Ole Miss’ defensive shortcomings is somewhat accurate, the defensive line should get a greater share of said blame. I would like to think some of these things are correctable, but four SEC West losses tell me otherwise.