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PREVIEW: Ole Miss Defense vs Alabama

A mix of youth and veterans make up the Ole Miss Rebel Ackbar Black Bears defense.

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Rebels defensive back Cody Prewitt hopes to slow Amari Cooper and the Tide WRs.
Rebels defensive back Cody Prewitt hopes to slow Amari Cooper and the Tide WRs.
John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE

This Saturday #21 Ole Miss travels to Bryant-Denny Stadium to face an angry Alabama Crimson Tide. They bring with them a 3-0 record and a bit of a chip on their shoulders. After a wild ending at Vanderbilt (39-35), the Rebs dispatched of SE Missouri State (31-13), and humiliated Texas (44-23).

Their stats through three games shows a stout rush defense but they don't get to the quarterback as much and don't defend the pass with much consistency. They improved on 3rd down efficiency in week 3.

Interceptions 2 1 0 3
Fumbles recovered 0 1 1 2
Sacks 2 3 1 6
Points Allowed 35 13 23 71
Rush TDs Allowed
3 0 1 4
Pass TDs Allowed
2 2 1 5
Rush Yards Allowed 126 93 124 343
Pass Yards Allowed 300 159 196 655
3rd down efficiency 8 of 16 10 of 17 4 of 15 22 of 48

Defensive backs

Senquez Golson (Photo by Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE)

One glaring weakness on the Rebels defense is defending the short passing game. Texas quarterback Case McCoy picked them apart in the first half before getting shut down to 100 total yards in the second half. Against Vanderbilt, WR Jordan Matthews ate them alive catching 10 passes for 178 yards and a TD. Unheralded tight end Steven Scheu had two receptions for 43 yards in that game including a 34-yarder in which he was left wide open after splitting out wide and the corner blitzed.

Cornerbacks Mike Hilton and Senquez Golson both barely clear 5' 8". They often need help from 6'2" safety Cody Prewitt who has 2 of the team's 3 interceptions. True freshman safety Tony Conner has the other INT and has been leaned on a lot this season. Trae Elston plays the Rover spot.


Denzel Nkemdiche (Photo by Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE)

Denzel Nkemdiche came to Ole Miss as an undersized (5'11"/198), under-recruited (no stars by Rivals & 247sports, only one scholarship offer), and underutilized linebacker (redshirt in 2011).

In 2012, he was a Freshman All-American after starting every game for Ole Miss at stinger/strong linebacker and leading the team with 82 tackles, 13.0 TFLs, four forced fumbles and three interceptions.

This season, he has become the young leader of the Rebels. However, Denzel is questionable after suffering a knee injury against Vanderbilt, leaving an already thin linebacking corps a little thinner. If he cannot go, junior Serderius Bryant will continue playing in his stead. Bryant is currently the team's leading tackler with 14 solos, 12 assists, 4 TFL and a sack.

Senior Mike Marry wears the No. 38 jersey which is in honor of the late Chucky Mullins, a nice tradition bestowed upon a worthy defensive player each spring. He has yet to produce much this young season.

Defensive Line

Robert Nkemdiche (Photo by Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports)

Denzel has a kid brother you may have heard of. Former 5-star high school All-American defensive end Robert Nkemdiche has been thrown into the starting lineup at defensive end. He has the size (6'5"/294) and speed but his inexperience shows when going up against seasoned offensive linemen.

At the other end is junior C.J. Johnson, a returning starter and All-SEC candidate. He has 4 TFL and a quarterback hurry. Sophomore Woodrow Hamilton is the man in the middle.

Senior Cameron Whigham (0.5 sack, forced fumble) and sophomore Issac Gross (2 TFL, 1.5 sacks) rotate in as well.