The Ole Miss defensive front is small but very athletic. As a group, they move well laterally, and have the ability to pursue to the field or boundary side with success. They do an excellent job of not flying too far up field, and the can stunt and shoot gaps to create problems for opposing offenses. One of the most undersized defensive linemen for the Rebels is also their leading tackler up front. C.J. Johnson is only 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, but shows excellent strength and quickness on the edge. He does a great job twisting and fighting inside against the power run game, and runs like a linebacker when he is put in a containment situation. Two other defensive ends that stand out on film are E.J. Epperson and Jason Jones. Epperson is strong at the point of attack, and Jones has been on of the Rebels' biggest playmakers with five tackles for a loss and two and a half sacks on the season. On the inside, the Rebels will only play one 300 pounder, but they are still very quick. Isaac Gross mans the nose tackle position at 270 pounds, but he plays with excellent leverage and energy. Carlton Martin, Byron Bennett, Gilbert Pena, and Uriah Grant all see time on the inside, and Pena is the only defensive lineman for the Rebels that is at or over 300 pounds.
The linebackers for Ole Miss are active and athletic. The group is led by hybrid linebacker/safety Denzel Nkemdiche who leads the team in tackles and tackles for a loss, and is also tied for the team lead in interceptions. The Rebels use Nkemdiche a lot like the Pittsburgh Steelers use Troy Polamalu. They move him around quite a bit and bring him from a number of angles so that he can make plays in the backfield. Mike Marry is another athletic linebacker to keep an eye on, and his ability to fly down hill against the run stands out on film. If the defensive linemen are occupying blocks, Marry can be tough to handle in the run game. Joel Kight is another undersized but instinctive linebacker that has made a lot of plays for Ole Miss, and Aaron Garbutt sees a lot of time as well. Both are active against the run and the pass. Garbutt is more solid in coverage while Kight has shown that he can work his way into the backfield to make tackles for a loss.
This group is talented, but it is also banged up at the moment. Senior cornerback Wesley Pendleton will likely miss the game due to an ankle injury, and the other cornerback, Senquez Golson, has been day-to-day this week with a concussion. If those two are out, Ole Miss will be paper thin at corner with little experience. They have a few nicks and bruises at the safety position as Charles Sawyer has a foot injury, but should play. Sawyer and Cody Prewitt man the safety positions, and both are solid football players. Sawyer plays with a great deal of energy and has great solid underneath range. Prewitt is a big, physical safety at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, and has been very active in the run game this year. Prewitt also has two interceptions on the year and his length allows him to get his hands on a lot of passes. With so many players banged up, it is unclear who the Rebels will use as their fifth defensive back in this game.
• First down - Ole Miss is an aggressive defense on every down, and but first down is one of their least aggressive situations. They bring at least one extra man 57 percent of the time.
• Second down - This is a funny down for the Rebels as they bring virtually the same amount of pressure on just about every down. They stunted up front in all three distances, around 76 percent of the time, and they brought a blitz in all three situations just around 60 percent of the time.
• Third down and long (more than 7 yards) - This is an aggressive down with creative edge pressure. Ole Miss likes to overload from the boundary on this down and distance, and the Rebels bring a blitz of some sort 73% of the time.
• Third down and medium (4-7 yards) - Ole Miss remains aggressive in this scenario by blitzing 64% thus far in 2012.
• Third down and short (less that four yards) - This is a heavy slant down for the Rebels and they like to combine a stunt with a run blitz from a linebacker. They slant a tad over 80 percent of the time, and they bring a blitz 56 percent of the time.
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