Maestro, the musical accompaniment:
This week we're making a special effort to delve deep into the Ole Miss psyche. It's a fascinating place, the mind of the Ole Miss fan, a place filled with dusty trophies from the 1950s, discarded J. Crew button downs, and weird, stalkerish poetry about girls with first names derive from their grandmothers' maiden names. There are also ironic jokes about how illiterate and/or backwards others across the South are, and dry rubbed ribs. But I digress.
To these ends, earlier this week I did a quick Q&A with The Ghost of Jay Cutler from SB Nation's Ole Miss site Red Cup Rebellion, which you can find here.
Also Ludakit made an appearance on Red Cup Radio on Ole Miss's Rebel Sports Radio which you can find here.
In response The Ghost Of Jay Cutler put down his copy of Absalom, Absalom! long enough to answer a few of our questions, reproduced below
1. Jarvis Jones. He's like Godzilla and the Bogeyman mixed together and injected with pure rage. How is Ole Miss going to handle him?
A talent like Jarvis Jones is frankly a guy you just flat out avoid. You can't "handle" him; you can only hope to get the ball as far away from him as possible. This offense loves to keep the ball on the edges of the field. In that sense, he may have a more muted impact on this game than he did against Florida, but he will still be a big part of it.
2. Three weeks ago Ole Miss hadn't won an SEC game in over two years. This weekend they'll be playing for bowl eligibility and trying to get a third conference victory. Was Ole Miss "that close" before Hugh Freeze took over, or did he really turn around the program that fast?
We always felt that this team was somewhat talented, with a few freshmen and sophomores having good seasons last year despite the team's overall ineptitude, but we weren't really expecting this much improvement in Hugh Freeze's first year. Hugh Freeze's offense has been big for this team's improvement, mostly because it has a pretty distinct identity that is both easy-ish to teach and a type of scheme that players like to run. But his biggest contribution is simply giving a damn about this team and program.
I can't pretend to know what Houston Nutt is thinking (of course), but he didn't seem to be as invested in Ole Miss after his first season. He's an Arkansan, and the Arkansas job was his destination job, so maybe he just couldn't get over what went on there. Regardless, Hugh Freeze is from an Ole Miss family, grew up just one county away from Oxford, and has always wanted to coach the Rebels. He's dedicated. The players can see that and I think that helps their attitude towards the program.
3. Kicker Bryson Rose booted three field goals against Arkansas, including the game winner. Is there another guy more likely than Rose to put a dagger in the Bulldogs' heart?
If you're looking for a special teams hero, then it's Bryson Rose. Not only did he hit his first game-winning field goal last weekend, but he also hit his career long (53 yards) field goal earlier that quarter. He was inconsistent to start the season, but he's been nails the last few weeks. If it comes down to it, I would count on him to repeat his performance last week.
Is there another guy more likely than Rose to, as you put it, "put a dagger in the Bulldogs' heart" though? If it came to a Hail Mary type of situation, Donte Moncrief could come up big for the Rebs. He's a big, fast sophomore receiver who has been perhaps the most valuable player in this offense on the season thus far.
4. Bulldog fans are largely familiar with Rebel linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche from his days at Grayson High School (and the fact that our coaches didn't offer him despite the effect it might have had on our chances with his younger brother Robert). Who else do we need to know about on the Ole Miss D?
About Denzel Nkemdiche, I'm not going to lie about the excitement Ole Miss fans feel about the potential to land his younger brother, but it's nice to have that excitement coupled with the fact that Denzel, in his own right, is a damn fine football player. Yes, he's vastly undersized to play linebacker in the SEC, but he has an unstoppable enthusiasm for football, is an incredibly smart player, and tackles with a real pop. He has forced a few fumbles this year, hauled in a pair of picks, is seemingly always right on top of the play, and has been a real thorn in the side of opposing offenses.
He's also apparently the most popular guy on the Ole Miss campus. He loves Ole Miss and Ole Miss loves him, and if you don't doubt that then follow his Twitter feed where he is seemingly constantly interacting with other students and fans. I just had to get that out there, because a lot of people seem to think that Ole Miss fans are using Denzel to get Robert, which really downplays the value he has for our defense. He's a great player with a tremendous personality who will (oh please oh please oh please) bring his über talented brother to Oxford, so of course we love the guy.
So, to answer your question, there are a few players that must be mentioned when discussing the Rebel defense. Defensive tackle Issac Gross is a bit lean for the position, and is only a freshman, but has already worked his way into a starting role because of his explosion off of the line of scrimmage. He's a very disruptive force simply because of his quickness. Even Alabama's offensive line struggled to block him at times. C.J. Johnson is a sophomore linebacker who, at some point last season, moved down to defensive end. He's the team's best pass rushing threat, and was big in the defense's efforts against Auburn and Arkansas. Mike linebacker Mike Marry is a working man's linebacker. He, unlike the rest of the defense, isn't lean, flashy, and fast. He's big and, while not terribly fast, makes the plays he's asked to make. Cody Prewitt, Trae Elston, and Mike Hilton are heavy-hitting defensive backs who have really surprised a lot of folks this year. And junior safety Charles Sawyer is a big playmaker who has a high football IQ.
This defense is very flawed. They're prone to giving up big plays and are oftentimes the victims of their own overpursuit. They are young (we could start something like five or six guys who are either freshmen or sophomores), athletic, and incredibly aggressive though. They'll give the Georgia offense the best they've got. I don't know if that'll be enough to win, but if the Rebs do lose it won't be because of a lack of defensive effort.