While Saturday was a very encouraging start for the Ole Miss defense, particularly in the secondary, it’s clear the Rebels can be better.
Two areas to keep an eye on will be man coverage in the middle in blitz situations and pass rush when the front four are called on to go it alone.
BYU quarterback Jake Heaps, just 11-for-22 in the first two quarters, was 13-for-16 after halftime, much of his success coming by dropping the ball to the fullback or tight end in the short middle.
Sophomore middle linebacker Mike Marry had 13 tackles in his first start. He’s going to be a physical presence against the run, but he’ll have to improve his pass coverage skills, because this defense is going to blitz defensive backs.
Players had mixed reviews on the pass rush overall.
“We could have gotten more rush, but where he was catching it was where he was throwing it from. When he was from the gun it was a three-step drop, three steps and release. By the time we got there it was gone, he had thrown it, he was scrambling or had taken off. That’s just the hand we were dealt. We tried to get there. We got there sometimes. Unfortunately we didn’t get any sacks,” end Kentrell Lockett said.
What the Rebels lacked in front four pressure and middle coverage they made up for in aggression, Marry said.
“I was proud of how we all ran to the ball, no matter how many plays we had played, we all ran to the ball. If somebody misses a tackle they are not going to get many more yards if everybody running to the ball,” he said.
Marry says he needs to improve in recognizing formations faster so he can help the defense play faster.