This is a random order. Here’s reason No. 24 that Ole Miss will be improved in 2011.
There aren’t proven playmakers at many positions on defense, but Damien Jackson is the top returning producer after finishing his first season with 68 tackles, 4 1-2 tackles for loss.
Jackson showed speed and a knack for delivering the big hit last year. What he didn’t show was interceptions. That, plus his size at 6-2, 210, makes him versatile enough to move to outside linebacker. He should be a natural fit there as the Rebels try to get more speed on the field.
Jackson can return to the back of the defense as needed. When he’s not, the move of Charles Sawyer from corner to safety continues the theme of speed on the field and lets the staff get their best players out there, which is always what they say they’re trying to do. The emergence of Wesley Pendleton at corner and the depth provided by the development of Senquez Golson makes the Sawyer move possible.
In the scheme of things at Ole Miss, the safeties are typically among the leading tacklers. That should be true again with more of them on the field. Jackson was second last year.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt commented Wednesday on the strides made by freshman Cody Prewitt serving to advance the competition.
Look for junior college transfer Aaron Garbutt to get plenty of snaps too. He’s running second to Jackson on the depth chart. Garbutt didn’t arrive in time to go through spring drills, but Nutt raved about his physical condition upon arrival, somewhat unusual for a player who didn’t go through the team off-season program.
Like Jackson, Garbutt is a physical player and a big hitter.
Sophomore Brishen Mathews delivers a lick too. He appeared in all 12 games last year, finishing with 15 tackles. He hit a Kentucky receiver so hard he gave himself a concussion.
Overall it’s a good group and one that will play a key role if the Rebels are to show improvement from 2010.