By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Changes in the secondary are planned for Ole Miss in the wake of a precision passing game by Texas in the Rebels’ 66-31 loss.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze says he’ll insert true freshman Trae Elston into the starting lineup, and veteran Charles Sawyer, the Rebels’ Conerly Trophy candidate last season, will move to cornerback – where Freeze says he’s a better fit.
The moves come after Texas quarterback David Ash completed 82.6 percent against the Rebels’ secondary.
Other opposing quarterbacks have had also success. The Rebels’ opponent completion percentage of 74.0 ranks them last in the SEC.
The starting cornerbacks through the first three games have been senior Wesley Pendleton and sophomore Senquez Golson.
Sawyer has played cornerback at Ole Miss before. He has been a three-game starter at safety, by name the “rover” position in the 4-2-5 scheme of defensive coordinator Dave Wommack.
The Rebels were without Elston last week, one of their top signees, who was suspended by the SEC for what league officials called a flagrant hit.
“If everything goes like we think it will this week, Trae will start for us at safety,” Freeze said. “We’ll continue to work with the (other) guys that we have.”
Pass defense wasn’t the only problem – It accounted for almost half of nearly 700 yards from Texas – but it was most noticeable as Ash took advantage of down-field opportunities.
There’s more change in the secondary as true freshman Quintavius Burdette moves from safety to corner. He’s gained coaches’ attention with his play on special teams.
Sawyer led the team last week with 12 tackles, but Freeze believes he can get more out of him.
“He was a little tentative at safety. You could just tell it wasn’t his natural deal,” he said.