Five Candidates to Fill the Sam Williams Hole if Misses Significant Time for Ole Miss
Booked by the Lafayette County Sheriff's Department on July 24, Williams was released on a $25,000 bond. These charges are under investigation and, at least until the legal system has run its course, Williams will be away from the team.
From a football sense, that leaves Ole Miss without their top pass rusher for an unknown amount of time. In 2019, Williams led Ole Miss with six sacks and added 9.5 tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries on the season, all in his first year with the team.
That leaves Ole Miss with some serious production to replace. These are the top candidates to take a big step up if Williams is to miss extended time:
The Established Candidates: Tariqious Tisdale and Ryder Anderson
One of Tisdale or Anderson were likely already going to start opposite of Sam Williams on the defensive line this upcoming season. Now, if Williams misses time, this pair of seniors are going to need to be the veterans producing along the edge.
Now, as Co-Defensive Coordinator DJ Durkin has explained and we've written about here, Ole Miss isn't going to play a 3-4 or a 4-3 or a 3-3-5 this year. They're going to do all of that, giving all of these guys shots to show what they do best.
Anderson has more starting experience, making four of the first five starts in 2019 before suffering a season ending leg injury, but both have over 24 games of experience under their belt. That said, neither have recorded more than 2.0 sacks in a season, something that will need to change if they're not going to be passed over by the next guys on this list.
The Fresh Faces: Demon Clowney and Tavius Robinson
Clowney and Robinson are both very new to the Rebels yet by very different means. Clowney, a consensus four-star edge recruit in the 2020 signing class, early enrolled and was here for the limited spiring workouts. Robinson, a transfer from Guelph College in Ontario, Canada, literally just showed up to Oxford within the past week.
Clowney, at 6-4 and 225-pounds, is a polished and athletic edge player capable of playing both the 3-4 outside linebacker and 4-3 defensive end roles, the versatility that will make Rebel coaches mouthes water with their multiple defense. He should make an instant impact.
Then there's Tavius Robinson. There's no real way to know what the Rebels are getting from the Canadian transfer. But at 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, his raw skills could look scary if properly developed.
The Wild Card: Luke Knox
Knox shined at times as an outside linebacker in 2019, appearing in every game while making two starts as a redshirt freshman. Totaling two tackles for loss and no sacks, he doesn't have the pass rush upside of the other names on this list, but is likely the best of the bunch as far as edge pass coverage comes.
Ultimately, replacing Williams will come in a committee. Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter confirmed to The Grove Report over the weekend that they are simply letting the legal system play out with Williams. Until that happens, he is suspended indefinitely from team activities and these other guys will need to step up.