By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – In rebuilding the Ole Miss defense from its disappointing finish in 2010 – 11th in the SEC statistical rankings in total defense, last in scoring defense, pass defense efficiency and turnover margin – Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix hoped he’d get a spark from a Spur.
The “Spur” position gets a fifth defensive back on the field. He plays closer to the line of scrimmage to help against the run but is versatile enough to adjust to pass coverage.
After several players auditioned at the position in August, Nix settled on junior college transfer Aaron Garbutt.
“I thought it helped. It helped our team speed with him flashing in and making some plays,” Nix said. “Putting him on the field with Charles Sawyer was a big addition to our defense.”
The Rebels gave up 91 rushing yards, 225 passing yards, 316 total yards, down in all categories from last season.
In a 14-13 loss to BYU, the Rebels allowed only one touchdown and scored one on Sawyer’s 96-yard interception return.
Garbutt finished with five tackles – three of them solos – and had a quarterback pressure.
At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he’s considerably lighter than the linebackers he’s lining up beside, but he doesn’t see that as a drawback in the run game against much larger offensive linemen.
“I think the position fits me very well. It allows me to keep my physical abilities, and keep other abilities like dropping into coverage and making plays on the ball,” said Garbutt, who had 98 tackles and five interceptions over two seasons at Fullerton (Calif.) Community College.
“There’s a lot of pass coverage involved. There are a lot of things involved in the run game, too, blitzing and whatnot, but the pass coverage is vital for the Spur.”
Sophomore Brishen Mathews, Garbutt’s backup, also had a couple of tackles.
Damien Jackson, tried at the Spur by Nix in camp, had 13 tackles from his strong safety position. Middle linebacker Mike Marry also had 13 tackles.
“The Spur helped us out a lot. He’s a DB, but he’s also a linebacker, real physical but also real fast. We can do more things,” Marry said.
Nix was pleased with the Rebels’ first showing but wants to see the defense create more second-and-longs
Aside from a sack by Ole Miss cornerback Marcus Temple, BYU averaged 4 yards on eight first-down plays and had 11 minutes, 20 seconds of possession time in the first quarter.
“We have to work at eliminating mistakes,” Nix said. “A lot of things we gave up to keep drives alive, such as third downs, were a lack of execution, a couple of big runs and passes with guys not putting their eyes in the right places.”