The Ole Miss secondary suffered a blow in Saturday’s 47-27 win over Texas Tech. Head coach Matt Luke confirmed on Monday that junior defensive back Jaylon Jones tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season.
Jones had seven tackles and returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the game before being injured in the first half. He will have surgery on Friday.
“It is a tremendous loss for us in more ways than one,” defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said. “He was a tremendous asset in terms of his leadership and football intelligence. He is very confident and as a coordinator he gives you confidence in going man-to-man coverage.”
Where does Ole Miss go from here at corner? Fortunately, it has a decent amount of depth. Ken Webster is returning from a hamstring injury and played in a limited capacity on Saturday. Both Luke and McGriff mentioned true freshman Keidron Smith as a guy who will get more reps and play more of a role as a result of the injury, along with Jalen Julius. Webster, Javien Hamilton and Myles Hartsfield will be the primary rotation at defensive back going forward.
Ole Miss’ flexibility in the secondary is where Jones’ absence will be most evident. He has the ability to slide back and play safety if needed. Jones was also the primary kick returner prior to being injured. Freshmen Elijah Moore and Tylan Knight are the most likely candidates to take over kickoff return duties, according to Luke.
“He provides a lot of versatility being able to go inside at safety and do a tremendous job at corner,” McGriff said. “Myles Hartsfield is probably our most flexible guy right now.”
Other injury notes:
-Kevontae’ Ruggs and Damarkus Lodge are both in concussion protocol and their status for this weekend’s game against Southern Illinois is uncertain. Ruggs left the game in the first half with a head injury and Lodge began to experience concussion-like symptoms on Sunday.
-Sean Rawlings is probable this weekend after inuring his shoulder and knee in the win over the Red Raiders.
What does the linebacker rotation look like if Ruggs is unable to play this weekend or even beyond that? Senior Detric Bing-Dukes will play middle linebacker with Mohamed Sanogo moving to Ruggs’ spot at outside linebacker. Sanogo started at middle linebacker on Saturday but slid to outside linebacker after Ruggs went down. Jacquez Jones also got snaps at middle linebacker and Willie Hibbler will be in the rotation at outside linebacker as well.
After slipping down the depth chart during fall camp, Bing-Dukes will now shoulder a bigger responsibility.
“When he was moved down the depth chart his attitude did not change one bit,” McGriff said. “He had a phenomenal attitude. He stayed on task, took notes in meetings as if he was with the ones. A lot of times when guys roles get reduced, they tend to pout. That young man continued to work and on Tuesday Coach Sumrall and I said ‘let’s give him more snaps.’”
Sanogo played well at middle and one the outside. Luke said the rotation with Ruggs being out, but it will make things easier for the Rebels on defense if Sanogo plays well at both spots.
“I thought that was one of the things we did better than at anytime last year was our communication,” Luke said. “There was a lot of communication from the back end to the front end. I think a lot of that is continuity of it being the second year in the system.”
SEC players of the week:
Ole Miss earned a trio of player of the week honors. Scottie Phillips was named SEC offensive player of the week. Greg Little won Lineman of the Week and Luke Logan won Special Teams Player of the Week after going 4-for-4 on field goals.
Phillips became the first Rebel to run for 200 yards in a game since Brandon Bolden in 2010. This was the lone question mark on the offensive side of the ball for the Rebels and Phillips went a long way to ease the uncertainty. Luke and Phil Long both mentioned after the game they wanted to be more efficient running the football. Phillips broke out for four or five long runs, but also had a few get blown up in the backfield.
“There was more efficiency there than we thought into the game,” Longo said. “We want to be more efficient in the runs that are not explosive. Our goal is four yard per carry. As Coach Luke says, if you average 3.5 yards a carry in the SEC, then you are running it pretty good. You just hate to have one go for 90 yards and the other nine carries go for 10 yards. You want to be efficient when you do it. We were okay in the efficiency department.”