Mississippi Preview 2006 - Defense
Ole Miss Rebels
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Ole Miss Rebels Preview 2006 - Ole Miss Rebel Defense

What you need to know ... The defense had its moments in head coach/defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron's first season and should be even better now with all-everything linebacker Patrick Willis back along with one of the SEC's best unsung secondaries. The entire front four needs to be replaced, but that's not the end of the world with the likely emergence of pass rusher Paria Jerry along with several promising prospects. There could stand to be more interceptions and more sacks; the two will likely go hand in hand.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Patrick Willis, 128
Sacks: Garry Pack, Patrick Willis, 3
Interceptions: Several with 1

Star of the defense: Senior LB Patrick Willis
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore LB Quentin Taylor
Unsung star on the rise: Junior CB Nate Banks
Best pro prospect: Willis
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Willis, 2) SS Jamarca Sanford, 3)
CB Trumaine McBride
Strength of the defense: Safety, linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
Defensive line experience

Defensive Line
Ed Orgeron is coaching this team; the defensive line is eventually going to be a strength. There's little to no experience with all four starters being replaced, but the potential is there for this to be a far better group if Peria Jerry turns into the dominant end he was throughout spring ball. Heyward Howard and Brandon Jenkins are going to be nice tackles to build around. The number two line could use some more work, but the focus will be squarely on the starting four and getting them as much time as possible to jell.
The key to the unit: Getting to the quarterback more than last year's line is a must. It'll be a far better front four by the end of the year than it is going into the summer. Getting from point A to point B in a hurry will be critical.
Defensive Line Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- DE Peria Jerry, Soph. - 3 tackles
The light appeared to go on for Terry this spring as he blossomed after moving from tackle to end. He's huge for the outside at 6-2 and 290 pounds with tremendous quickness and natural pass rushing skills. Good enough to play anywhere on the line, he'll flourish in time if he can develop on the end.

- DT Heyward Howard, Soph.
A strong interior pass rusher, the 6-4, 300-pound JUCO transfer struggled out of the gate this spring and then was unblockable at times as the practices wore on. After originally signing with Michigan State, Howard turned into as star at Eastern Arizona CC where he made 27 tackles for loss.

- NT Brandon Jenkins, Jr. - 3 tackles
While not massive at 6-5 and 280 pounds, Jenkins is tremendously strong and should grow into a good anchor on the nose with the potential to hold at the point of attack and let everyone around him shine. He saw a little bit of time over the first two seasons at tackle as well as guard, and now he appears to have found a home.

- DE Chris Bowers, Soph. - 12 tackles
Bowers has the most experience on the line getting two starts and plenty of backup work before getting knocked out for the final month of the season. He's 231 pounds and isn't a rock against the run, so if he's not consistently getting into the backfield, he's not helping out the line.

Top Backups
- DT Jerrell Powe, Fr.
And with the 19th pick of the 2008 NFL Draft ... he's really that good. The prize jewel of last year's recruiting class spent last year at the
Hargrave Military Academy getting his grades in order, but it didn't work out and he'll be academically ineligible. He's 6-2 and 330 pounds with next-level quickness and pass rushing ability from the inside.
- NT Jeremy Garrett, Jr. - 10 tackles, 1 TFL
The 275-pound junior saw a little bit of time last year and is versatile enough to play either tackle position. He's the team's most experienced tackle and will see plenty of time in the rotation early on.
- DE Vincent DeLoach, Jr. - 3 tackles
He has the size and he has the quickness. Now he has to put is all together and become a playmaker behind Peria Jerry at end. He saw a little bit of time last season and showed flashes this spring of becoming a reliable number three end in the rotation.

The surprising return of Patrick Willis for his senior season makes a potentially decent corps special. One of the nation's best defenders, Willis will be the rock of the Ole Miss defense and should allow veteran Garry Pack and rising sophomore Quentin Taylor to make big plays on the outside. The depth needs time to develop, and will get it this fall.
The key to the unit: Quentin Taylor needs to shine on the weakside right away and Patrick Willis has to be Patrick Willis again.
Linebacker Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- Quentin Taylor. Soph. - 13 tackles, 2 TFL
Taylor saw a little bit of work last season as a true freshman and now takes over for Kelvin Robinson as a big, 235-pound weakside defender. It'll be a work in progress for him to become an all-around playmaker needing to take advantage of several plays being pushed his way from Patrick Willis in the middle, and he needs to prove he can get into the backfield and be consistent in pass coverage.

- Patrick Willis, Sr. - 128 tackles, 3 sacks, 9.5 TFL, 4 broken up passes, 1 interception
One of the nation's best defensive players, Willis will no longer be the hidden gem that only SEC fans know about. He's a fast 6-2 and 230 pounds who was good enough to have been no worse than a second round NFL draft pick had he decided to leave early after dominating last season with five games of double-digit solo tackles (leading the nation in solo stops) and with double-digit stops in every game he was healthy except one; he made nine stops against Arkansas. Not just a run stopper, he has the range to be adequate in pass coverage to go along with the timing to be a solid pass rusher. He was out this spring recovering from surgery on his foot, but he's expected to be more than fine by the time fall practices start.

- Garry Pack, Jr. - 61 tackles, 3 sacks, 6 TFL, 1 interception
Overshadowed by Patrick Willis, Pack turned in a strong season finishing third on the team in tackles and tied for the team lead in sacks. He was a bit inconsistent as a sophomore on the strongside but showed a good flair for getting into the backfield and made several big plays against the run. He should flourish now that he knows what he's doing and with Willis to help clean up any mistakes.

Top Backups
- Robert Russell, Soph. - 15 tackles
Russell will find time as the first man in the rotation in the middle and on the strongside. At 235 pounds, he's a much bigger option than Garry Pack and even adds a bit more bulk than Patrick Willis. He's a rock against the run, but he hasn't shown much yet in other areas.
- Rogers Loche, RFr.
Loche will be groomed behind Patrick Willis to be the main man in the middle next season. He got plenty of chances this spring with Willis out, and he made the most of the opportunity making plays all over the field as the sessions went on. He's only 6-0 and 225 pounds with room to get bigger and stronger.

Defensive Backs
The secondary finished 14th in the nation allowing 179 yards per game and gave up just 12 touchdown passes. While the Rebels didn't exactly face a who's who pass passing attack, this was enough of a strength to be excited about the possibilities this season with three starters returning. The new face in the starting four, cornerback Nate Banks, might turn out to be the best of the bunch coming off a tremendous spring. Charles Clark and Jamarca Sanford are solid safeties who have to make more big plays against the pass, while Trumaine McBride is good enough to be considered one of the SEC's better shutdown corners.
The key to the unit: Pick off more passes. The Rebels only came up with six interceptions last season.
Secondary Rating: 7.5

Projected Starters
- CB Nate Banks, Jr. - 15 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL
Banks went from being a lightning fast back up to a potentially top shutdown corner this spring. He'll get the start on the left side as the only new starter in the secondary taking over for Travis Johnson, and he could become the best of the bunch. He has decent size at 5-11 and 180 pounds with the wheels to hang with any receiver in the SEC.

- FS Charles Clark, Sr. - 40 tackles, 1 interception, 2 broken up passes
Clark saw his production dip a bit last season but still was solid. With 133 career tackles, he has been a good hitter and is the leader of the veteran secondary. He always seems to be in the right spot, but now he has to make more plays when the ball is in the air; he only has one career interception and nine broken up passes..

- SS Jamarca Sanford, Soph. - 58 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 3 broken up passes, 2 fumble recoveries
Sanford missed all of spring ball but will be back this fall after recovering from off-season surgery. He had a great freshman season finishing fourth on the team in tackles showing great skills in the open field. he's a tone-setting hitter who should start to get a little bit of All-SEC recognition if he can build on what he did last year.

- CB Trumaine McBride, Sr. - 34 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 interception, 8 broken up passes
A top all-around corner over the last two seasons with 24 broken up passes, McBride is a speedy ball-hawker who'll be the team's number one corner as well as a top punt returner. He won't have to carry the entire load with the emergence of Nate Banks on the other side. 

Top Backups
- SS Bryan Brown, Sr. - 19 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 broken up passes
Brown stepped in this spring with Jamerca Sanford was out and was so good that strong safety should now be a major strength. He has seen time as a kick and punt returner and will likely see time as the first safety in the mix if he doesn't go nuts this fall and upset Sanford for the starting spot.
- CB Dustin Mouzon, Soph. - 14 tackles, 1 broken up pass
The team's top backup corner will also see time as the nickel back. He had problems this spring with a groin injury that isn't expected to be anything to worry about by fall. He's a reliable number two man behind Trumaine McBride on the right side with good speed and surprising pop on his tackles considering he's only 170 pounds.

Special Teams
The kicking game should be fine with several options to work with. Will Moseley can do a little of everything and will start out as the placekicker with Matt Hinkle in the mix. Rob Park will start out at punter with Moseley also getting a shot this fall. The return game is the biggest issue after finishing dead last in the nation in kickoff returns averaging 15.41 yards per try. Freshman Marshay Green will start out handling the kickoff and punt return duties.
The key to the unit: Get more consistency from the kicking game and find some sort of production from the return game.
Special teams rating: 6

Projected Starters
- PK Will Moseley, Sr. - 3-6 FGs, 3-4 extra points, 21 punts, 858 yds, 40.9 yards per kick, 4 inside the 20
Moseley has the biggest leg on the team and is a strong kickoff artist, long range bomber, and occasional punter. Now he'll get the first look to be the full-time kicker battling with last year's starter Matt Hinkle. If he isn't consistent, it'll be Hinkle's job again.
- P Rob Park, Soph. - 43 punts, 1,641 yds, 36.2 yards per kick, 8 inside the 20
Park had a good, but not great true freshman season splitting the work with Will Moseley. He doesn't have Moseley's leg and will have to show more consistent pop. He's solid at forcing fair catches.

Related Stories
Mississippi Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006
Mississippi Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006
Mississippi Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 8, 2006

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