After Signing Day: Defensive tackles

A position by position look at the Rebels after signing day …

Like many positions on defense, for defensive tackle it’s about depth and not an immediate need for big roles from the newcomers.

Ole Miss returns its top six players at the two down spots led by Robert Nkemdiche, who settled in at tackle after starting his career at end.

Issac Gross and Woodrow Hamilton are back at nose where Gross made four starts a year ago, Hamilton nine.

Bryon Bennett, Carlton Martin and Lavon Hooks are all back, and all will be seniors.

Nkemdiche missed most of three games with a strained hamstring and still led all down linemen with 34 tackles. He added eight tackles for loss, two sacks, two passes broken up and three pressures.

I don’t know exactly how pressures are credited in defensive stats, but I’m pretty sure Nkemdiche applied pressure more than three times.

His eight tackles for loss were third on the team behind Serderius Bryant and Gross.

Hooks was expected to make a quick impact after coming over from Northeast Community College. He didn’t figure into the DL rotation right away and spent some time as a tight end. Injuries made it necessary for him to return to the DL full-time, and he had some nice plays over the course of the season with a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss among his 10 stops.

There are more numbers at tight end now, and it’s unlikely Hooks will be needed there.

Bennett made seven starts in 11 appearances.

There are two intriguing high school additions in Garrald McDowell, of Coington, La., and Chris Williams, of Tyrone, Ga.

McDowell is a consensus four-star signee. ESPN rates him as the No. 111 overall prospect, the No. 8 defensive tackle.

247 rates him as a strong side end, their No. 12, and his 6-2, 260-pound frame gives him the versatility to line up there if that’s what the staff chooses.

Williams doesn’t have a lot of recruiting star power by his name. ESPN was the only major service to rate him with four stars.

Here’s something interesting about the 6-1, 287-pounder. He had nine tackles for loss in only six games as a high school senior, 17 tackles for loss in a full season as a junior.

That’s owning your real estate as they say.

Williams was a high school teammate of Ole Miss defensive back Mike Hilton.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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