An embattled Ole Miss defense took another blow on the injury front during Saturday’s 62-7 loss to Alabama. Defensive back Montrell Custis is out for the season after tearing his ACL. Custis will have surgery on Thursday and will be out 6-8 months.
Custis had been splitting time at the star position with Vernon Dasher and is another hit to the Rebels’ rapidly deteriorating depth in the secondary. The team lost corner Jaylon Jones for the season after he too tore his ACL against Texas Tech. Expect to see more of Cam Ordway at star behind Dasher as well as Myles Hartsfield sliding over from corner to get snaps at star as well.
— Matt Luke said Ken Webster is still dealing with a nagging hamstring injury and is questionable for this week. The Rebels are quickly becoming thinner in the one area on defense they felt pretty good about coming into the season.
— Running back Eric Swinney could make his season debut against this week after battling Mononucleosis for the last three weeks. Luke said Swinney will need to get into shape, but is probable for this week’s game against Kent State.
Where does the defense go from here?
Ole Miss has given up 1631 yards through three games this season and ranks as one of the worst defenses in the FBS. Yes, the unit is devoid of talent. Yes, it is also a schematic issue. Defensive back C.J. Moore spoke after Saturday’s game about there needing to be more simplicity in the defensive scheme and that he felt the defense is lost on the field at times.
“You always have listen to your players,” defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said. “They’re the one’s who have to go out and execute. We simplified the game plan, but we’ll look at it. The bottom line is that we’re all in a production-based business, and we have to be productive. If that means simplifying it a little bit more, then that’s what we’ll do.”
More talent isn’t walking into the facility this season, so how does Ole Miss become competitive enough defensively to give the team a chance? Both McGriff and Luke spoke about the need to inspire the players and get them ready to play from the opening whistle. Focus has been an issue early on as well.
“The magic isn’t in the scheme,” Luke said. “The magic is in the effort and going out there and executing.”
Saturday showed a good defense can slow down Ole Miss’ high-powered offense. If the defense does not improve, it will be difficult for the Rebels to remain in close games against most SEC teams.
Pressure on the Quarterback:
Ole Miss has just two sacks through three games and is not getting consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Some of that is due to the injuries in the secondary. The Rebels are having to pick their spots as to when they bring pressure.
“You have to be selective as to when you put these guys in man-to-man coverage and bring pressure,” McGriff said.
The defense lacks a shutdown corner with Jones out and Ken Webster’s absence doesn’t help either. It limits what an already limited defense can do.
“We will dial up some pressure,” McGriff said. “But we also must be selective and pay attention to who is on the field to make sure we do not put them in a bad position, while still trying to be aggressive at the same time.”
LSU Kickoff time:
Ole Miss and LSU will kickoff at 8:15 P.M. CT when the Rebels travel to Baton Rouge on September 29, a tough blow to anyone with an early bed time.
Ole Miss has allowed 58.2 percent of possible yards to be gained this year, which is 125th nationally. The only worse defenses are Coastal, SMU, Ohio, Georgia State, and UConn. Great company.
— Dylan Edwards (@DylanEdwards77) September 17, 2018
Ole Miss also leads the SEC in 500-yard games allowed with six over the past 15 games.
— Dylan Edwards (@DylanEdwards77) September 16, 2018