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Ole Miss football 2020 preview: Defensive Back

Will it be one or two impact transfers at the third level?

Josh McCoy-Ole Miss Athletics

Despite the off-season, spring, AND fall camps being affected by COVID-19, college football is back, and the Ole Miss Rebels kick things off September 26th against the Florida Gators. Until then, we are going to dive into the position groups and what we expect from them during this 10-game abbreviated schedule.

A season ago, the Ole Miss defense improved and made massive positive strides under Mike MacIntyre and his guidance in the secondary. Now, he has departed for Memphis and new defensive coordinator DJ Durkin has his hands full once again, battling a lack of depth and top-notch talent.

But, there’s help that has arrived by way of Canada and the transfer portal. Senior transfer Deane Leonard arrives from Calgary after earning All-Conference honors at Notre Dame in Alberta. Hopefully joining him at the third level is former top-100 player and Georgia signee Otis Reese. After playing in every game last season for Kirby Smart, he opted to transfer to Oxford, joining Lane Kiffin’s 2020 class.

The returning talent, as mentioned earlier, isn’t deep, but there’s experience and play-making ability, no doubt. Chucky Mullins Courage Award recipient Jaylon Jones is seemingly 100% back from an injury suffered in the 2018 opener and is hoping for a big-time finale before his eligibility is exhausted.

Another notable returning contributor is junior Keidron Smith. The West Palm Beach native made 48 total tackles last season and 3.5 tackles for loss. He lead the team with eight pass breakups, has played in every game since arriving on campus, and we think he is in line for big-time third year in the program under the tutelage of Terrell Buckley.

AJ Finley, Jakorey Hawkins, Jon Haynes, Jalen Jordan, Jamar Richardson, and Jay Stanley are back as well. All have experience in the SEC and should provide ample support on the depth chart. 2020 signees Derek Bermudez, and Lakevias Daniel will all also be counted on to help things in the secondary in a year that is essentially a gimme.

One last to know in 2020 is newcomer Marc Britt.

The Carol City, Fla. product flipped his commitment from Florida and chose the Rebels over a host of notable Power 5 offers and is poised to not only contribute in the secondary but also at receiver. The first team All-Dade County selection did it all for Dade Christian in 2019, hauling in 1,352 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns on offense and four interceptions on defense.

I along with several others expect to see a lot of Britt this season on the field and we agree with them that you should be excited.

Durkin and co-defensive coordinator Chris Partridge are going to be extremely multiple and aggressive and I expect that to include the secondary as well. Buckley and Blake Gideon’s groups will be all over the place, blitzing, spying, and covering receivers, tight ends, and running backs and should be an exciting bunch.

The additions of Leonard and Reese along with the 2020 class bring a punch to both cornerback and safety and this group has potential to really surprise a lot of people this season. There is a lot to like, a lot of length, and a lot of speed to handle the ongoing transformation of college football as it turns more and more into a vertical game that must be defended over the top.