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Projecting the Rebels’ Fall Depth Chart: Defense

Pete Golding’s first Rebel squad may lack star power, but appears to have exceptional depth

Ole Miss v Texas A&M Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Rebs kick off Fall football practices today, and Lane Kiffin will get his first look at what is likely the deepest roster he’s had heading into his fourth season at Ole Miss. In one of the splash coaching hires of the offseason, Kiffin brought in Pete Golding as his new defensive coordinator. Golding has had a major impact on the defensive personnel so far, bringing in a pretty phenomenal class of defensive transfers.

In the Grove Bowl this Spring, Golding appeared to primarily roll with a hybrid 4-2-5/3-3-5 defense, with a “Buck” linebacker lined up in a stand-up position on the LOS. Based on what we’ve read, there’s also a “Money” position that could be manned by an undersized linebacker or a hard-hitting safety.

With that formation in mind, I’m taking my best shot at what the Rebels’ two-deep will look like on defense, with some notes on each position group:

Defensive end:

  1. Cedric Johnson
  2. Isaac Ukwu
  3. Jared Ivey

In the Grove Bowl, the first DL group to hit the field was Jared Ivey, JJ Pegues, Zxavian Harris, and Reginald Hughes – essentially a traditional defensive end, a 1-technique nose tackle, a 3-technique defensive tackle, and a Buck. Cedric Johnson wasn’t participating in Spring ball, but if healthy, he’ll be the likely starter at DE. It’s unclear whether Ukwu, the talented James Madison transfer, will play DE, Buck, or maybe a little of both? If he can swing the Buck position, it gives the Rebs a strong pass rusher with the size to play the run as well. Ivey will also play a ton; he appears to have stepped up his game after a strong first season.

Defensive tackle:

  1. JJ Pegues
  2. Stephon Wynn

Pegues is set to be one of the stars of the defense, after a promising first season in Oxford. After that, it’s not totally clear who the next man up will be, but Golding made a point to go out and get Stephon Wynn from the portal. The former Nebraska and Alabama DT will likely compete with Georgia Tech transfer Akelo Stone and returner Jamond Gordon. Either way, the quality depth at this position is something Ole Miss doesn’t often have.

Nose tackle:

  1. Josh Harris
  2. Zxavian Harris

Ole Miss has just two guys that fit the traditional nose tackle mold, and the two Harrises seemed pretty evenly matched throughout Spring ball. The knock on Josh Harris in his time at NC State was that he played a little overweight, and had endurance issues. He now appears to be at an ideal size, so hopefully can log plenty of snaps. Zxavian Harris had a really promising true freshman year (any true freshman who gets a lot of snaps at defensive tackle in the SEC is the real deal, as far as I’m concerned), but recently got himself in some trouble by being a dipshit behind the wheel. He may well serve a suspension before getting back into the action.


  1. Reginald Hughes
  2. Monty Montgomery? Isaac Ukwu? Khari Coleman?

Ole Miss really hasn’t recruited the “Buck” position the past three years, as DJ Durkin and Chris Partridge’s 3-2-6 defense didn’t call for one. Pete Golding brought in Jameer Lewis from the JUCO ranks to compete at the position, and appeared to be deadlocked with former backup linebacker Reginald Hughes. In the Grove Bowl, Lewis started for the Red team, while Hughes started for Blue. Unfortunately, Lewis decided to leave the team shortly after the conclusion of Spring ball to go do… well, I don’t even know. That leaves the Rebs with Hughes and pretty much no one else at the Buck spot. I could see Golding moving over a linebacker like Monty Montgomery or Khari Coleman, or defensive end Isaac Ukwu, who likely projects as a pass-rushing linebacker at the next level anyways… but we really don’t know!


  1. Khari Coleman
  2. Suntarine Perkins
  3. Ashanti Cistrunk
  4. Monty Montgomery
  5. Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste

So there’s a pretty strong consensus that true freshman, five-star, All-everything linebacker Suntarine Perkins is going to be a big part of the defense right away. And while the Rebs have a lot of experience at the linebacker position, the group appears to lack star power. That’s what Perkins provides. Coleman looked dominant last year before nagging injuries took over, so Perkins and Coleman are my two picks to start at the main linebacker spots. Cistrunk, Montgomery, and Jean-Baptiste would all be fine as SEC starters. TJ Dudley, Tyler Banks, and Trip White are also guys that could make an impact. Again, the depth here looks surprisingly strong.


  1. Ladarius Tennison
  2. Trey Washington

There are just an absolute crapload of defensive backs who have a chance to play this year, and anyone who’s not on the Ole Miss coaching staff who says they know how they’ll be lined up is lying to you. Tennison and Washington last year seemed to play close to the LOS a lot, so we’ll go with them for now. Suntarine Perkins has also been tossed about as a candidate to play some “Money,” likely while he gains a little SEC weight.


  1. Deantre Prince
  2. Zamari Walton
  3. DeShawn Gaddie
  4. DaiJahn Anthony

Again… there are a lot of guys in play here. Deantre Prince has been a baller since he first stepped on campus, and I don’t see anyone seriously challenging him for a starting role. Georgia Tech transfer Zamari Walton looked like an SEC-caliber starter in Spring ball, but DeShawn Gaddie comes in from North Texas with a lot of hype and swagger. For a chance to round out the Rebels’ cornerback rotation, Liberty’s DaiJahn Anthony will likely compete with Miami transfer Chris Graves, Tulane transfer Jadon Canady, true freshman AJ Brown, and returners Jarell Stinson and Demarko Williams.


  1. Isheem Young
  2. John Saunders

The knock on the Rebels’ three most veterate returning safeties (Young, Tennison, and Washington) is that they’re all pretty undersized, all under 6 feet. Saunders, a transfer portal grab from Miami (OH), is about 6’2, and was absolutely all over the place in the Grove Bowl. I actually like him to start, but it will be hard to unseat the three aforementioned guys, who have a lot of SEC experience between them. Veteran FAU transfer Teja Young and returning redshirt freshman Taylor Groves could work themselves into the conversation as well.