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Ole Miss 2019 Preview: Can a new scheme breathe life into the defensive line?

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“FILL THE A GAP!” says a frustrated fan who doesn’t know where the A-gap is

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Texas A&M Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Ole Miss Rebels football team has seen some ridiculous talent on its defensive line over the years. Players like Peria Jerry, CJ Johnson, Jerrell Powe and Robert Nkemdiche were the basis for a lot of fins thrown up in Vaught Hemingway in crucial moments of some of the biggest games in the last decade.

A general school of thought is that a defense in football is built upon a strong, chaos causing defensive line. Defensive tackles who can blow up the middle of an offensive line affect the run game or disrupt timing. Defensive ends who can collapse a pocket or break it up altogether means a quarterback is running for his life or firing off an errant pass leading to more interceptions.

The Rebels will have a new look up front in regard to a 3-4 front seven compared to a four man defensive line in the past few seasons. Typically, this means an enormous and also very strong nose guard or defensive tackle needs to clog up space in the middle.

Luckily, Ole Miss has Benito Jones coming back for another season. Jones (6’1, 329-pounds) started every game last season racking up 34 tackles with nine tackles for loss and three sacks. He has been the model of consistency and work ethic starting in 26 games and playing in every game in the last three years. Needless to say, there’s not much he hasn’t seen or experienced, and he’ll anchor the defensive line and silently lead the entire defensive side of the ball.

Flanking Jones with most likely be some starting combination of Tariqious Tisdale, Austrian Robinson, and Ryder Anderson at defensive end. Personally, Robinson (6’4, 300-pounds) is the Chucky Mullins award winner, so it’s always nice to see that No. 38 run out with the one’s to start a game. I think he can also potentially offer another option in the middle when needed in the rotation.

Tisdale (6’5, 290-pounds) is in his second year with Ole Miss, racked up 33 tackles last season, and came to Oxford from Northeast Community College. He started two games in 2018, but I think he was getting adjusted to the speed of playing in the SEC and could flourish a little more this year.

I don’t understand why Anderson (6’6, 270-pounds) hasn’t been more successful at Ole Miss given his long reach, NFL pedigree, and two years of experience in the SEC. There has to be some higher expectations for the junior out of Katy, Tex. this season since he has seen action in 22 games already in his time at Ole Miss. Granted, there have been times where he is in position to make plays and does his job — I know many of you remember the busted coverages more often than the good plays.

Josiah Coatney (6’4, 325-pounds) certainly has the size to be able to play defensive tackle on this line and provide great quality depth in the rotation. He notched the third most tackles on the team last year with 63, and I think he could potentially serve double duty at defensive end as well in the right scenarios and alignments in the 3-4.

Given that five man rotation, things seem to look fairly positive already before we mention two returning defensive tackles in KD Hill and former JUCO transfer Hal Northern who saw time on the field last year.

Additionally, the newest JUCO transfer Sam Williams who is slotted as an OLB right now was rated as the No. 7 junior college prospect in the nation at defensive end. He could absolutely step up into that role and provide some interesting looks for opposing offenses when he lines up and causes QB’s to consider just what in the hell he’s about to do.

All things considered, the 3-4 is going to help Ole Miss against spread offenses better than previous seasons, but the defensive line for me is an interesting proposition this year. There is a lot of senior talent, and there is a true two-deep rotation of guys who have SEC experience. Coaches have to be a little excited to see how this group of big men will perform this fall and take steps to bringing back some respect to the Landshark name.

Back and better than ever in 2019

Benito Jones

Tariqious Tisdale

Josiah Coatney

Austrian Robinson

Ryder Anderson

Quentin Bivens

Lawson Stockett

KD Hill

Hal Northern

Newcomers for 2019

LeDarrius Cox

Sam Williams

Brandon Mack