As most coaches do with most opponents, Memphis coach Justin Fuente had good things to say about Ole Miss in several areas this week.
He had especially high praise for the defensive line.
“Their defensive line is pretty impressive to say the least, incredibly active, physical, well-coached. Those are things that stand out. Their defensive line jumps off the film at you,” he said.
That group could be the most important element for Ole Miss tomorrow in its quest to slow down the Memphis offense.
It was able to be disruptive against Memphis last year. It’s a more experienced Memphis offense now, and the Tigers will get a boost from playing at home before what will be the most active crowd they’ve ever witnessed in their stadium.
While Ole Miss is transitioning at linebacker and in the secondary this year, there’s still a lot of experience on that defensive line.
“Their D linemen are very destructive for offenses,” Memphis wide receiver Phil Mayhue said.
It will no doubt be the deepest and most talented defensive line Memphis has faced this season. The Tigers have been very good at protecting quarterback Paxton Lynch against the defensive lines they have faced.
They rank No. 44 nationally in 1.40 sacks per game allowed, No. 29 with 4.80 tackles for loss allowed.
Ole Miss hasn’t had a great pass rush this year. The Rebels have done fairly well with getting near the quarterback. Sometimes that’s enough. You’d rather have the sack, of course, but pressures can be just as disruptive.
The Rebels rank just 95th, 10th in the SEC, in sacks at 1.5 per game.
They’ve been much better trapping running backs in the backfield at No. 15 in tackles for loss at 8.0.
The sacks would be a lot more helpful against a Memphis team that won’t seek to run much but will certainly work to get the ball out of Lynch’s hands quickly.
Ole Miss defensive end Marquis Haynes has 3 1-2 sacks, but two of those came last week against New Mexico State.
“We felt like we’ve been overrushing, just going straight up. We just want to rush; we’re not really like going to the level with the quarterback, getting in position where the whole team can get a sack. We’ve been leaving gaps wide open he can run through. Now we call plays so he can’t run through,” Haynes said.
Haynes had a sack and a caused fumble against Memphis last year. He sees a tall quarterback like Lynch (6-7) as an advantage because he provides a bigger target area for speed rushers.
Haynes has recently changed his stance on the advice of former Ole Miss end Derrick Burgess.
“I’ve had to change my stance. My stance was too wide for me to get up off the ball. I closed my stance a little bit more, and I’m faster off the ball. Me and coach (Chris) Kiffin talked about it, and then we had Derrick Burgess. He taught me what was wrong with my stance. We worked on it in practice last week, me and him and coach Kiffin. It got a lot better.”