Rebels ‘D’ working in sync, sets sights on McCarron

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal Woodrow Hamilton says this year's Ole Miss defense is like "a regular family."

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal
Woodrow Hamilton says this year’s Ole Miss defense is like “a regular family.”

By Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

OXFORD – Woodrow Hamilton’s work ethic alone makes him a throwback kind of guy.

Listening to him talk about the impetus for improvement in the Ole Miss defense, it’s not hard to envision the Pittsburgh Pirates of 1979, the striped caps, with “We Are Family” playing in the background.

The family approach is what gives this group the chance to be special, says Hamilton, a third-year sophomore nose tackle. Like his teammates, Hamilton is confident that No. 21 Ole Miss will play well Saturday at No. 1 Alabama.

It wasn’t that way in 2011. It wasn’t anything like a family.

“Two years ago when somebody made a mistake, everybody wanted to holler at their own teammate,” Hamilton recalled.

As a redshirt that year, he witnessed Alabama apply a 52-7 beating long before it was announced that former coach Houston Nutt and his staff would not return.

Teammates trusting one another has helped Ole Miss have success against the run. The Rebels (3-0, 1-0 SEC) are giving up 114.3 yards a game on the ground, third-best in the SEC.

“Basically, we do what a regular family does. If somebody does something wrong in the family I don’t just go out in the world and tell everybody what my family did,” Hamilton said. “We just keep everything in, and let’s handle everything like grown men. We’re just really a part of each other’s lives.”

Stopping the run is the first measure of manhood for any defensive line. It’s what everyone wants, but fort the Rebels, there’s a secondary goal.

They believe if they force Alabama (3-0, 1-0) into third-and-long situations they make the Tide’s two-time national championship quarterback more predictable.

Then the Rebels can rush full steam at A.J. McCarron.

Success some other teams have had in getting close to McCarron has inspired Ole Miss.

“You go watch the film, and it’s pretty blatant that they got to the quarterback, but we just have to continue to play our game and execute,” defensive end C.J. Johnson said. “When we get a chance to rush the quarterback I think we can.”

The Rebels have had only sporadic success at collapsing pockets and getting quarterbacks to the ground. They’re averaging 1.33 sacks a game, ninth in the SEC and down from the 2.92 sacks they averaged in 2012 when they finished second in the league.

Three starters off last year’s Alabama offensive line are now in the NFL. The Tide’s rebuilt line has had mixed results, allowing two sacks a game, 10th in the SEC.

McCarron has completed 64.1 percent of his passes but has thrown it to the other team twice.

Success comes more easily for most quarterbacks when they’re faced with third-and-2 rather than third-and-8.

Johnson says Ole Miss has to do a better job of running stunts more cleanly and making sure not to miss when it has a chance at a sack.

McCarron is “probably one of the best quarterbacks in college football,” Johnson said. “He just knows how to win. If we can stop the run and get them in some third-and-longs I think we’ll be all right.”

Click video to hear audio

  • Kevin

    We gave up 23 vs. Texas and 35 to Vandy. The Tide will score at will come Saturday. Our best bet would be to get the ball, do long, time-consuming drives and not let them out on offense.

  • REB

    No, I think we have to play our game. Up tempo, don’t give their defense time to think. Then on defense, our main goal, slow the rush and then rush the passer as much as they allow us to. Work on our stunts is really needed. We can slow their run down to point where passing is obvious. The secondary is what bothers me. Sorry Mr. Kevin I think you missed the mark on this one. Just my opinion.

    • Kevin

      What Nick Saban teams do against weaker opponents is first get a lead, usually by as much as 14 or 21 points or more. Then they grind it out between the tackles for the rest of the game, committing to long 8 and 9 minute drives, thus keeping the opponent’s offense on the sidelines, watching, waiting, and getting desperate. We have a good team this year, but a team that will still have four or five losses at the end of the season. And we should rejoice in that because I’ve been a Rebel fan since my youth in the 1970s and seven and eight-win seasons are few and far between. Maybe we can upset LSU or A&M (because Johny Football doesn’t play defense), but I don’t think we can upset the No.1 Tide on their turf. Anyone thinking we can upset the Tide on their turf is living in Tuscalooser’s DreamLand BBQ.

  • Keep the defense rotating,wrap up when you tackle,and disguise coverage.You have to confuse their qb and keep him guessing.OM offense has to throw short passes and run the ball on first down.Bama weakness is their secondary.With Moncrief,Tread,and Ingram they can work that ball down field easily.Thats how Tx A&M beat them last year!

  • pdreb

    Kevin, the defense we field against Alabama is a far cry from the one we put out against Vandy. Not the personnel but the three game unity and Wommack’s adjustments. You’ll see it Saturday. No, as a 16 point underdog and playing at Tuscaloosa, our chances are more than slim but it will not be the blowout you are suggesting.

    • Kevin

      Well, I don’t particularly get warm and fuzzy when we lose close ones, either. In those instances, I keep thinking would’ve, could’ve…

      I still predict the game to be ultimately over by halftime. The Tide at home, under the lights, nearly 100K rabid, semi-literate Tide fans who are so bad at spelling that they needed to name their team after detergent to remind them. The best thing about this weekend is a visit to Dreamland BBQ.

  • pdreb

    Pressuring McCarron is absolutely essential. If you let him stand there he will chop you to pieces. We need a blitz package using Tony with Woody and Isaac opening holes for him to penetrate. Coming off the edge with Cody, Trae or Chief is not a bad idea either. In the meantime, stopping the run is key.

  • pdreb

    Again Kevin, disagree on your assessment of a blowout. We played in front of over a hundred thousand at Austin which didn’t seem to bother anybody. As Cody Prewitt said, “We love playing before a huge hostile crowd.

    In any event, the horror story is having to visit Alabama two weekends in a row. Just going to that state for anything is punishment enough.

    • Chad Nutley

      Dude!!! You live in Mississippi for God’s sake.

  • pdreb

    Sorry to disappoint you Chad but I live in sunny Southern California.