It has been a chaotic week of sorts for an Ole Miss secondary reacting to the blow of its third season-ending injury in five weeks. It was announced on Tuesday that senior safety C.J. Moore will miss the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
This comes after cornerback Jaylon Jones and nickel corner Montrell Custis suffered torn ACL’s in the first three weeks. The depth the team had coming into the season is eroding and has forced a pair of running backs — freshman Tylan Knight and junior Armani Linton — to move to the defensive side of the ball. Linton is moving back to the position where he spent the first two years of his Ole Miss career before converting to running back this offseason.
“The things that I did learn came back to me really quick,” Linton said. “I take pride in having a high football IQ. Having a high football knowledge means you can play fast and I take pride in watching film each week and making sure I know the scheme so I can play faster.”
Linton said not much has changed in terms of scheme from a year ago and that has made the transition smoother. He didn’t anticipate having to move back out of necessity so early in the season, but one position switch already taught him to have an open mind.
“I came into this season willing to do anything to help my team get into the win column,” Linton said. “If it is on defense, special teams or offense, that is what I am willing to do.”
Linton is a versatile athlete, but was not a mainstay in the defensive rotation his first two years. This is certainly an opportunity for him to improve and evolve into a more consistent defender . The coaching staff has made it sound as if he will play immediately.
“He’s got to be willing to come down and tackle in the run game and do those things,” head coach Matt Luke said. “He is a smart player and was doing a great job at running back. Just will that the injuries, we feel like Armani and Tylan can give us a shot in the arm.”
Luke said he’s been impressed with Linton’s retention and that the junior is already helping get others aligned on the defense. The staff had toyed with the idea of moving Knight to the defensive side of the ball, and the injury to Moore made that move a necessity. Luke does not anticipate Knight playing both sides of the football going forward.
“We don’t want to put too much on his plate,” Luke said. “He is going to be focused on defense and special teams this week. But an injury on the offensive side of the ball, it wouldn’t be beyond us moving him back if we had to.”
It’s a tough blow for Moore, as his Ole Miss career is now over. He received an extra year of eligibility after tearing his pectoral in fall camp before the 2016 season.
“You work hard in your senior year and have a season-ending injury, it is tough,” Luke said. “But I am proud of how he is handling it and rallying around his teammates.”
Kickoff on Saturday is set for 3:00 P.M.