This is a random order. Here’s reason No. 17 that Ole Miss will be improved in 2011.
While there is inexperience along the defensive line interior, there’s much more experience at the ends, thanks to the NCAA’s decision to allow Kentrell Lockett a sixth season of eligibility.
In Lockett’s absence last year, Gerald Rivers got a lot of snaps. As Wayne Dorsey struggled, Jason Jones got a lot of snaps.
Now Jones and Dorsey have alternated at No. 1 at the end opposite Lockett.
Dorsey so far has had a camp worthy of the praise heaped upon his effort and focus in the off-season by Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and others. Dorsey has shown consistency lacking last year, his first as a junior college transfer, and he had a good first scrimmage.
Jones signed as a linebacker and tore up a knee in 2008. He’d been looking for an opportunity to contribute and got it when the staff was looking for help last year. Jones, now a junior, appeared in 12 games, starting four. He was the most productive end last season and always seemed to be around a big play on a defense that needed many more big plays. Of Jones’ 17 tackles, 5 1-2 were behind the line, 2 1-2 were sacks. He had a quarterback pressure, broke up a pass and recovered two fumbles.
If Dorsey’s comeback is real, and Jones takes a step forward, they’ll make a strong tandem.
There’s been nothing in camp to suggest that Lockett’s comeback from an ACL tear isn’t real. Warning flags went up at one workout when he left early and went inside for treatment, but we were told he was feeling the soreness that goes along with recovery and not new damage to the knee.
If Lockett returns to his 2009 form, that’s a big deal.
Rivers, now a fourth-year, made gains in his pass rush in the spring and has done good things in camp. He appeared in 10 games last year, drawing five starts, and finished with 14 tackles, three tackles for loss and 2 1-2 sacks.
Sophomore Carlos Thompson has battled through a camp injury. He was a noted pass rusher in high school. Coaches would like to see him add weight and hold up better against the run at this level. He turned in a nice spring game with seven tackles, two for loss and a sack.
Thompson could be a situational pass rusher.
Overall the position could be an asset for a rebuilding defense.