Rebels Focus on Defense on Signing Day

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Ole Miss' defense needed a shot in the arm after a 2016 season to forget. It began by retooling the defensive staff, bringing in Wesley McGriff to take over the defense along with new hires on the defensive staff. It continued on Wednesday when the Rebels signed a class with an obvious eye towards revitalizing the Landshark defense. 

Of the 21 recruits in Ole Miss' 2017 signing class, 14 are on the defensive side of the ball. Eight of those 14 are ranked as four-star prospects, so Hugh Freeze and company succeeded in adding talent and depth to that side of the ball.

"We addressed a lot of needs that we have. That's what signing day should always be about," Freeze said. "Defense was the priority of the class, to get it fixed."

Linebacker, in particular, is a position group where it's obvious that the Rebels improved greatly on Wednesday. Ole Miss signed five linebackers, highlighted by four-star recruits Josh Clarke, Breon Dixon, and Mohamad Sanago. 

"Linebacker was a place we needed to improve," Freeze said. "Time will always tell, but I think we have quality individuals there, first ... I know we have length. That's something we haven't had enough of."

Ole Miss also added four four-star recruits in the defensive secondary in D.D. Bowie, Javien Hamilton, and C.J. Miller, and Kam'ron White. While they're athletic, they also possess a vital, yet often overlooked trait for defensive backs: ball skills.

"I've come to the conclusion that if kids are picking the ball on Friday nights, they're probably not going to intercept it on Saturday nights," Freeze said.

On the other side of the ball, the Rebels return many of the snaps from last season. Therefore, the need wasn't as great in this recruiting cycle. The Rebels still added some depth to the quarterback room behind Shea Patterson in Jordan Ta'amu and Alex Daniel.

The offensive class was highlighted by four star recruits Tony Gray on the offensive line and Braylon Sanders at receiver. Both will join position groups that return impressive amounts of talent. 

"We met a lot of needs," Freeze said. "We're excited to go to work with these young men that have chosen our program."

The Senior Bowl always offers players a chance to improve their draft stock by performing well against some of the best players in the nation. Evan Engram took advantage of that opportunity. NFL Network's draft expert Mike Mayock named Engram as one of the 10 standouts from the last week in Mobile.

Mayock expects the Ole Miss TE to be at least a second round and to impress at the NFL Combine. 

Know the Opponent: Texas A&M

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Know the Opponent: Texas A&M (10-8, 2-5)

KenPom ranking: 64

Best win: vs. No. 50 Virginia Tech

Worst loss: at No. 93 Mississippi State

Texas A&M on Offense: The Aggies are a slow, yet efficient offense. Their 18 seconds per possession ranks 265th in the nation, but they are one of the best teams in the nation at making shots inside the arc. Nearly 60 percent of A&M's points come from 2-point shots, the 22nd most in the country. Texas A&M doesn't do much damage from 3, shooting just 33 percent. The three players that account for the largest percentages of shots when they're on the court are all at least 6-9. Tyler Davis leads the Aggies in scoring and can draw fouls at a high rate. 

Like Ole Miss, Texas A&M has struggled with turnovers. Both teams have about 30 percent of possession end with a turnover. A&M hasn't taken advantage of free throws this season, shooting 64 percent from the line. 

Texas A&M on Defense: It's very difficult to score inside the arc on the Aggies. A&M ranks sixth in the nation in opponents' shooting percentage on those shots. They send shots back at the 12th highest percentage in the nation. Teams often have to rely on hitting deep shots, which A&M has not defended well at times. The Aggies 3-point percentage ranks 226th in the nation. 

Rebels Impressing at East-West Shrine Game

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NFL eyes are always set on college all-star games, so they provide an opportunity for players to greatly increase their stock. At the East-West Shrine Game, Quincy Adeboyejo and Tony Bridges are taking advantage of that opportunity. Adeboyejo, in particular, has been stealing the show.'s Mike Mayock on Adeboyejo: "He's about 6-foot-3 and he's got length. He's got a little more suddenness than what I saw on tape. He's shown an ability this week to catch the ball in traffic."

Former Rebel Coach Ron Aldy Honored at Kirk Academy

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Former Ole Miss women's basketball coach Ron Aldy was honored at Kirk Academy in Grenada, Mississippi, by the naming of the gym floor "Ronnie Aldy Court" on Saturday. 

Aldy spent six season as the head coach of the Rebels from 1997-2003. He helped lay a foundation that Carol Ross used to propel the program to four-straight NCAA Tournament berths. 

Aldy boasts over 30 years of head coaching experience. He spent a total of 11 seasons at Holmes Community College after his 17-year stint of coaching both the boys and girls teams at Kirk Academy came to a close. 

Tunsil Named AFC East Rookie of the Year by ESPN

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Miami Dolphins offensive lineman and Ole Miss' former blind side protector Laremy Tunsil was named AFC East rookie of the year by ESPN. The award was voted on by the four reporters covering the teams in the division. Three of the four selection Tunsil.

Tunsil started 14 regular season games and one playoff game, split up between left guard and left tackle when Dolphins' starter Branden Albert missed time with an injury. Tunsil's play turned a weakness of the Dolphins last season into a strength. The Dolphins ranked among the top 10 teams in the league when rushing to the left of the center. 

Despite playing out of position at left guard, where he had never played before, Tunsil did not allow a sack from the inside all season. Even more impressively, he was able to play at such a high level despite battling a shoulder injury throughout the season. When he did get time at left tackle, he showed the skill that Ole Miss fans grew accustomed to when he was in red and blue. 

It's only a matter of time before the Dolphins move on from Albert at left tackle and insert Tunsil as their starter there for the next decade. 

Three Rebel Coaches Among Top-20 Recruiters Nationally

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Ole Miss football bolstered its coaching staff by adding coaching that are well known for their ability to bring in talent by recruiting at a high level. ranks the top recruiters each year, and three of the top-20 in 2016 currently are employed by Ole Miss.

The Rebels added the No. 4 recruiter in the nation in Bradley Dale Peveto as well as the No. 20 recruiter Jacob Peeler. Matt Luke, who often doesn't get enough credit as a top-tier recruiter, ranks No. 7. No offensive line coach ranks higher than Luke in the rankings.

Ole Miss is tied with Florida State and Alabama for the most with three coaches ranking in the top-20. 

Know the Opponent: Georgia

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Georgia (10-5, 2-1)

KenPom ranking: 61

Best win: at No. 103 Auburn

Worst loss: at No. 79 Oakland

Ole Miss has an opportunity to get back to even in SEC play as well as pick up a nice win on Wednesday when Georgia visits the Pavilion. The game will feature a matchup of two of the best big men in the league with Sebastian Saiz and Yante Maten facing off in the block. 

Georgia on Offense: The Bulldogs do most of their damage on the inside on offense. Nearly 80 percent of Georgia's points have come on shots from inside the arc or at the free throw line.

Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier offer a potent inside-outside combination. Maten draws more fouls per 40 minutes than anyone in the SEC and leads Georgia in scoring. While he's extremely productive on the inside, shooting nearly 60 percent on 2-point shots, he also has hit 12 from beyond the 3-point line. Frazier is shooting just 27 percent this season from 3 but showed last season he's a much better shooting than that. 

Georgia on Defense: Georgia's defense is the strength of their team and one of the best in the conference. Teams don't shoot the ball well against Georgia, hitting only 32 percent of 3s while barely shooting 40 percent from the field. 

The Bulldogs have two anchors inside in Maten and Derek Ogbeide that turn away shots at a high rate. Both have more than 20 blocks this season. 

Know the Opponent: Auburn

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Know the Opponent: Auburn (10-4)

KenPom ranking: 105

Best win: No. 28 Texas Tech

Worst loss: No. 172 Boston College

Both Ole Miss and Auburn are after their first win in conference play. Ole Miss has had arguably the toughest open of any team, drawing Kentucky at home followed by back-to-back road games. 

Auburn on Offense:  Auburn plays fast. The Tigers average fewer than 15 seconds per possession, the 14th-fastest pace in the country. However, Auburn is below the national average in both 3-point and 2-point shots. Ole Miss hasn't been good at defending 3s this season, but Auburn hasn't shot them at a high rate. Because of that, Auburn ranks just 164th in offensive efficiency. 

Auburn does get to the line though. Mustapha Heron ranks 17th in the nation in drawing fouls. Heron runs the show, taking more than 1/4 of the shots when he's on the floor.  

Auburn on Defense: Auburn's defense is the strength of the team. Teams have not shot the ball well against the Tigers. Auburn also forces teams to turn the ball over at a high rate. That's an issue that has plagued Ole Miss this season. Ole Miss can't let what happened in the first half at Florida in regards to turnovers happen again and have a shot to win. 

Auburn has been susceptible to offensive rebounds though, and that's an area where Ole Miss can thrive. The Rebels rank 24th in the nation in offensive rebound percentage while Auburn's defense ranks 280th in the same category. 

Longo Named FCS Coordinator of the Year

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Football Scoop - Ole Miss' new offensive coordinator Phil Longo was named the FCS Coordinator of the Year by The award is selected by former winners of the award, which shows the respect other coaches have for Longo's coaching ability.

Sam Houston State was able to run through the regular season undefeated and reach the FCS Quarterfinals in large part due to Longo's offense. The Bearkats averaged nearly 50 points per game while racking well over 500 yards per game.

It's one thing to move the ball from the 20-yard line to the 20-yard line, but Longo's Bearkats excelled at finishing drives in the red zone. More than 80 percent of drives that made it to the red zone ended in a touchdown. 

Sam Houston State was dynamic through the air, finishing ranked second in the FCS in passing offense (368.3 ypg). However, the Bearkats rushing attack was not to be discounted. Longo's squad ran for nearly 200 yards per game as well. Sam Houston had more than 4,500 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards in 2016. No FBS team accomplished that.

While working inside of Longo's offense, nine Bearkat starters received All-Southland honors. 

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Recent Comments

    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

    in post Heisman House Tour Heads to Oxford for Ole Miss-Georgia

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