There are many objectives in spring football for a new coach and staff. One of those is developing depth.
While there's been so much focus on what the offensive hasn't gotten done, the defensive line does appear to be developing some depth.
That comes with an asterisk, of course. (See offensive line play above).
The defense spent a lot of time in the backfield yesterday, some of that with blitzes, some of it not.
Aside from a strong practice last Thursday by the offensive line, the defense has often had the upper hand.
“I guess we're just starting to really get used to the system. Defensively, it's a lot easier than it is playing offense. They'll come around eventually, and we'll be a pretty good football team,” said sophomore defensive end C.J. Johnson.
This strong defensive play has come with several players out. Johnson missed time last week with a concussion. Sophomore DT Bryon Bennett has missed most of spring, as has sophomore linebacker Keith Lewis, and junior linebacker D.T. Shackelford has been out after a second surgery on the ACL he tore a year ago.
Shackelford's status for the fall is the most iffy.
With Bennett out there have been more reps for redshirt freshman DT Woodrow Hamilton, who was getting some snaps with the first team yesterday.
Junior Carlos Thompson has had a good spring. This is a guy that Houston Nutt praised on signing day, one Nutt believed would be a game-changing pass rusher off the edge, but Thompson hasn't been able to get on the field.
Clearly, the defense could have used a stronger pass rush last year with just 13 sacks, compared to 34 by opponents.
At the ends, the Rebels have a lot of guys who have played, but not a lot of guys who have been big playmakers over time.
Someone will likely emerge from the group, but there's also an opportunity for freshman Channing Ward once he arrives.
“We think Channing Ward can come in and play,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.