The Ole Miss Defense

SaturdayDownSouth.com takes an interesting look at 2014 SEC defenses and how they ranked in points per possession.

The 2014 Ole Miss defense will be remembered for leading the nation in points per game allowed — scoring defense — which is the ultimate measure of a defense.

It’s interesting to note that Ole Miss achieved this defensive status with an offense that ranked next to last in the corresponding category — points scored per possession.

The national narrative moving forward will be what can Ole Miss do for an encore?

It’s a fair question.

A big reason for the defensive success this season was the play of the secondary, and the Rebels lose two All-Americans there — safety Cody Prewitt and cornerback Senquez Golson.

Hugh Freeze and staff have recruited well of late, and now it’s time for some of the young talent — C.J. Hampton and Kendarius Webster come to mind — to write their own stories.

The most intriguing name in the secondary is Tee Shepard. Freeze called him the team’s best cover corner last August when he was lost for the season with a rare toe injury.

That high praise was bestowed on Shepard, a first-year junior college transfer, before Freeze knew what kind of player Golson would become. Golson had not put up All-America numbers in two years, but he kind of exploded onto the scene this year.

The idea, though, is that Shepard, if fully recovered, has the chance to step in at Golson’s spot with equal ability.

Mike Hilton is back at the other corner — or perhaps somewhere else if Webster comes on. If Webster outshines Hampton in spring drills it could be Hilton at free safety. Why not, he’s played everywhere else in the secondary?

Another wild card to consider is Chief Brown, a veteran, who missed most of the season with an Achilles injury. He played in the last four games and showed the rust that goes along with missing most of the season. He had 38 tackles and a key interception against LSU as a sophomore.

In short, there’s reason to believe the secondary can play well in spite of two big losses.

There are fewer experienced parts to work with in trying to replace D.T. Shackelford at middle linebacker.

The biggest reason to expect big things of the Ole Miss defense in 2015 is the front line. Robert Nkemdiche, also an All-American this season, is back as a junior, and C.J. Johnson returns at one end.

Young talent that was redshirted this year comes into the mix, and there’s a key pick-up at nose tackle in junior college transfer D.J. Jones who could be a big run-stopper in the middle.

If the line reaches its potential that secondary may not have to cover too long.

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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