Eighth in a series
This group was not a strength last year, though they appeared to be playing better at season’s end. That late evaluation gets kind of sketchy, because of the quality of quarterbacks the secondary faced in three of its last four games against Auburn, La.-Monroe, LSU and Mississippi State. As a group, however, they played well against record-setting Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell in the Cotton Bowl.
In November, Auburn’s Kodi Burns got hot late and ended up passing for 319 yards in the Rebels’ 17-7 win. Two weeks later defensive tackle Peria Jerry knocked LSU starter Jarrett Lee out of the game, and true freshman Jordan Jefferson was thrust into action.
In the Cotton Bowl the Ole Miss corners helped hold Texas Tech All-American Michael Crabtree to four catches for 30 yards.
It wasn’t long before that, though that some quarterbacks hurt the Rebels in man coverage. Arkansas nearly completed a frantic comeback win, hitting numerous lob passes downfield, once it went into hurry-up mode.
Starters Marshay Green and Cassius Vaughn are both back at a position that coaches believe grew stronger in the spring.
The Ole Miss defense had 16 interceptions last season but just five by cornerbacks. Vaughn had three, and Green had two. Collectively the Rebels finished last in the SEC in pasing yards allowed. They were a little better in pass defense efficiency ranking 10th.
Position coach Chris Vaughn says his players understand the scheme much more than they did a year ago. The scheme is different than the one taught by the previous administration in that it requires players to turn and find the ball sooner. Players are playing more instinctively, Chris Vaughn said.
Cassius Vaughn starts at the boundary corner, playing the tight side of the field. He’s backed up by former running back Jeremy McGee, a transfer from UCLA, who made strides in the spring.
Green continues to start at the field corner and is backed up by sophomore Marcus Temple. Temple made a name for himself as the nickel back last season and gained fame when he was the first to make contact with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow on the Gators’ failed fourth-and-1 attempt in the final seconds.
DeMareo Marr, a junior college transfer who redshirted last year, and redshirt freshman Julian Whitehead are other names to watch at corner.
Last year the corners could occasionally get by with average man coverage, because the defensive line was so good at getting in the backfield and disrupting things. The DL may be that good again, but it looks like the corners are somewhat better. Last spring they made very few plays against the offense. This year they made many more.