Preseason Report 08.09: Defense Shines in Open Practice

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche has had a strong fall camp thus far.
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche has had a strong fall camp thus far.
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Aug. 9, 2014

OXFORD, Miss. – Approximately 1,000 fans showed up to watch the Ole Miss football team practice on a warm, humid Saturday morning at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in the Rebels’ lone open practice of fall camp, and for the second straight day the Rebels’ defense shined.

“The things we did this morning, you have to be able to protect to run those things, and we did not protect at all,” Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. “We have to evaluate, ‘Is that something we want to continue to work on to do?’ We have to get more effort out of us offensively right now. We had two real good days this week and then yesterday and today both have been pretty evident the defense is way ahead and dominating. We have a ways to go, but everybody does at this point.”

While it is common for the defense to be ahead of the offense at this stage of fall camp, Freeze said the defense usually isn’t “quite as dominant” as it has been the last two practices.

One unit of the Ole Miss defense that has caused particular trouble for the Rebels’ offense is the defensive line.

“We have some pretty good guys,” Freeze said. “Marquis (Haynes), C.J. (Johnson) and Robert (Nkemdiche) are certainly pass rush guys and they’re a handful. If we were playing that front we would certainly have to game plan some different things, and we’re not doing any of that right now. In one-on-one matchups those guys are a handful.”

Nkemdiche, who was a first team freshman All-America selection by multiple outlets last season, and is a preseason All-Southeastern Conference first team selection going into the 2014 campaign, has had a strong camp thus far and stood out again Saturday.

“In our gap schemes we can’t back block because of him, and that causes us to have to change some things,” Freeze said. “When you’re installing you want to be able to just run your stuff and teach it, but it looks so bad you get frustrated. He’s a handful.”

Concerning the ongoing position battles at right tackle and center, Freeze said it was still too close to call, and he probably wouldn’t have an answer until sometime next week.

“We’ve been going back and forth this week,” Freeze said. “It will probably be another week before we say, ‘This is who we’re going with in the first group.’ Fahn (Cooper) has been going with the first group (at right tackle) until today I think we made a switch back to look at Robert (Conyers) there and Ben (Still) at center.”

For all Ole Miss Football news and information, follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissFB, and on Facebook (Facebook.com/OleMissFootball), in addition to OleMissSports.com.

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