Since the Rebels started practice earlier this month no position has seen as much experimentation as defensive end.
Clearly, Hugh Freeze and his staff are trying to find an answer to the pass rush problems that plagued this team last year. The Rebels had just 13 sacks a year ago, compared to 34 by opponents.
Only five of those sacks came from defensive ends, and they were produced by Wayne Dorsey and Gerald Rivers, who are no longer with the team. Only one sack was credited to a defensive lineman — tackle Uriah Grant — who is back with the team this season.
There are high hopes and expectations for sophomore C.J. Johnson who will hold down one end spot. The other is an opportunity for someone, and in camp senior E.J. Epperson won over Freeze and the defensive staff with his effort. Epperson is described in this update as not the most talented player but as someone who will play with maximum effort each play.
Epperson is an interesting story, a senior who correctly assessed himself as the backup tight end and sought the move to a position he hadn’t played since high school at Class 2A Humboldt, Tenn.
There have been other experiments here, like sophomore Ralph Williams moving from linebacker. Cameron Whigham brings some experience, and Channing Ward brings raw potential.
With so many unknowns at the position, it’s important to have someone like Epperson leading the way with work ethic.