This is the position that most impressed me on the defense last year.
Chris Kiffin did a good job with these guys as well as the ends.
One mark of good coaching is players playing better at the end of the year. That certainly held true for Gilbert Pena but also for Bryon Bennett, who had six of his nine tackles over the last three games.
Pena, a big body in the middle, will be missed. Uriah Grant is gone too. The two of them combined for 13.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
Issac Gross had a phenomenal freshman year. He led all interior linemen in tackles with 10 and tackles for loss with 10.
Bennett will need to play at a higher level next year, and the Rebels will need some help in the middle from junior college transfer Lavon Hooks – who signed in December and will go through spring drills – as well as in-coming freshman Herbert Moore.
Hooks and Moore are the only two newcomers at the down spots, and aside from Gross there was plenty of drop-off in production of the returning interior linemen.
A guy to keep an eye on is Woodrow Hamilton. Injuries held him to only eight appearances last year, and he was less than full strength in some of those. But there’s a lot of energy with Hamilton. In his limited playing time he had nine tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Hamilton could take a big step forward in the spring.
Gross’ quickness makes him a match-up problem for some opponents, and he could be poised for a big sophomore season.