Ole Miss is trying to rebound from a demoralizing 62-7 defeat to the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Rebels returned to the practice field on Tuesday. Here are some news and notes from practice.
— Ken Webster was not at practice and is still dealing with a nagging hamstring injury that has plagued him since fall camp. Luke listed Webster as questionable on Monday. Myles Hartsfield, Jalen Julius and Keidron Smith were the corners out at practice today getting reps on the first and second team defense. Hartsfield could see time at the star position with Montrell Custis out for the season, but it will mainly be Vernon Dasher — the normal starter who was suspended for Saturday’s game against Alabama due to a violation of team rules — as well as Cam Ordway. Hartsfield and Julius appeared to be getting the bulk of the first team reps.
Other notes and participants:
— Eric Swinney was back at practice and getting some reps with the second team offense. Swinney has missed the last three weeks with mononucleosis and is probable for the game this week, according to Matt Luke. Getting back into shape after the illness is the biggest thing Swinney will battle.
— Willie Hibbler was in a no-contact jersey at practice. The extent and nature of his injury is not known, but we will likely know more after speaking to Matt Luke tomorrow.
— Mohamed Sanogo and Kevontae’ Ruggs ran with the first team linebackers. Detric Bing-Dukes and Jacquez Jones ran with the second team.
Defensive line looking to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks:
Ole Miss has sacked the opposing quarterback just twice through three games this season. Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff spoke on Monday about the Rebels’ reluctancy to blitz because of the injuries the team has suffered in the secondary. McGriff made it clear that they still want to dial up pressure, they are just going to have to be selective when they do. Ole Miss is struggling mightily on defense and the defensive line being able to get to the quarterback more consistently without dialing up extra pressure would certainly be helpful.
Despite the brutal first half Ole Miss endured last week, Benito Jones took it upon himself to try to spark the team in the second half. He had two tackles for a loss on the opening drive.
“You are still playing for yourself, the school and the team,” Jones said. “We just have to execute better. It is the small things.”
Jones doesn’t sense any added pressure for the defensive line to get to the quarterback more without a blitz coming behind them.
“We just worry about stopping the run and getting sacks,” Jones said. “That is what we lock in on. We don’t really know what is going on 10 and 15 yards behind us.”
It’s been a tough two weeks for this defense, but they are adamant the confidence is not lacking.
“It’s been better,” defensive line coach Freddie Roach said. “The beautiful thing about this game is that we can bounce back. We have nine more opportunities. It is week in and week out. That is how we have to approach it.”
The first half has been unkind to the Rebels defensively. They’ve allowed 12 touchdowns in 15 total first-half possessions through three games. McGriff said on Monday it is the coaches’ responsibility to get them ready to play and that hasn’t happened the last two weeks. Jones mentioned it being a mental thing.
“It’s about locking in and getting better,” Roach said. “We have to hone in on the little things. Obviously we have to start the game faster. As coaches and as players, we have what we need to get corrected. We have to stop the big play.”
Kickoff Saturday is set for 11 A.M.