The week of practice is winding down for Ole Miss as it prepares for the arduous task of facing the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide this weekend. Matt Luke provided injury updates and discussed the challenges Alabama presents following Wednesday’s practice.
Damarkus Lodge practiced in a green non-contact uniform on Wednesday and is probable for Saturday’s game. The Rebels need all the firepower they can muster on the perimeter given how talented the Tide’s front seven is.
Ben Brown did not practice on Wednesday but is expected to clear concussion protocol on Thursday and participate in practice, according to Luke.
Kevontae’ Ruggs was a full participant in practice and is expected to play.
How will the Rebels utilize the middle of the field?
Ole Miss is probably the most talented team in the country at wide receiver. No team, Alabama included, will be able to match up with the Rebels on the perimeter. That’s not to say the Tide won’t have better luck slowing down Ole Miss’ receivers in the vertical passing game and particularly on the deep ball. It will help the Rebels immensely to be able to utilize the middle of the field as well with tight end Dawson Knox and possibly Octavious Cooley too.
“I think there is always going to be for us to get involved,” Knox said. “I do think they play a style of defense for us to have more opportunities. As long as we are winning the game, I am happy blocking or doing anything that is needed. I think it will be a fun one.”
Even in the 66-3 trouncing a year ago, Knox drew a personal positive from that game. It was his first career start and he caught a pass during the middle portion of the game that settled him down, not only for that game but for the rest of the season.
“That was the first time I really kind of noticed I could really get out there and play against anybody,” Knox said. “It gave me confidence for the rest of the season.”
State of the defense:
Last week was a tumultuous step backwards for an Ole Miss defense that showed some signs of improvement in the Texas Tech game. The Rebels were gashed for 629 yards by Southern Illinois in an alarming performance given what is left on the schedule. This will be an interesting week for this unit, no matter the outcome of the game. Will the Rebels put up a fight on the defensive side? Will there be tangible improvement despite the juggernaut they’re facing?
“I think naturally they want to do better,” Luke said. “I think the level of focus goes up with the start of SEC play and playing the number one team in the country. There are a lot of reasons for them to be focused. I think the main thing is you want them to earn it. You don’t want to give them anything and have guys run free because of a lack of eye discipline. You want to make sure you make them earn it.”
The mental lapses are what this defense is trying to clean up before facing the Tide.
“It was more mental than physical,” defensive end Victor Evans said. “Everybody has to be on the same page and everyone has to do their job.”
Kickoff is set for 6:00 P.M.