Looking ahead through bowl practice to the spring.
Fifth in a series
As juco signing day nears Ole Miss remains in pursuit of East Mississippi defensive tackle D.J. Jones.
It looks as though they have a good chance to land him, and that would be a big lift.
While the Rebels have two nose tackles returning that hasn’t been a position of strength this season, even with Robert Nkemdiche tying up blockers and commanding attention next door.
Isaac Gross had 31 tackles, six tackles for loss and a couple of pressures this season. Not bad numbers while splitting time, but Gross, more than others, is a guy that needs to split time. He’s not big enough to handle the banging every play. Injuries throughout his career have proven this.
Even so, he’s still a situational advantage, and that works if you can alter his stops with a dominant run-stopper, a guy who can plug the middle.
Bryon Bennett and Lavon Hooks showed flashes this year, but both will be gone. Woodrow Hamilton returns.
While Hooks had 6.5 tackles for loss and Bennett 4.5, Hamilton had just one half tackle for loss.
There are three young guys on the roster: redshirt freshman Herbert Moore and freshmen Breeland Speaks and Garrald McDowell.
McDowell is built more like Gross than a big run-plugger. He and Speaks were both four-star signees.
Speaks was listed at 285 pounds at the time of his signing. The Ole Miss roster has him now at 310, McDowell at 257.
At EMCC Jones showed an ability to shed blocks and make plays as he finished with eight sacks this season.
Juco stats make interesting reading, but they don’t always translate to the next level.
The fact that Florida State and Alabama are pursuing him may say more about Jones.
The bottom line is Hugh Freeze and his staff have worked so hard to fix the OL, as they should, that numbers are becoming an issue on the interior DL. That will show up more next year than this year.
With better numbers at defensive end, don’t be surprised to see a guy like Fadol Brown (6-4, 280) move to tackle in the off-season.
Ole Miss needs a physically mature signee like Jones to come in and help for 2015.