The Ole Miss offense is high-flying, sexy and statistically among the best in the entire nation. The Ole Miss defense is an abomination, a dumpster fire and a flaming liability. Call it what you want, it's just bad.
In three games, it's hard to single out one thing the Rebel defense does well. Week one against Florida, they gave up over 400 yards to Kyle Trask and the passing game. Week two against Kentucky, they allowed over 400 yards on the ground.
On Saturday against Nick Saban's Alabama team, Ole Miss allowed 723 net yards, including 306 rushing yards and 417 passing yards. Mac Jones threw only four incomplete passes in route to a 417 yard, two touchdown performance. Najee Harris averaged 9.0 yards per carry and scored five times.
All this poses one massive question: is it even possible to fix this defense over the course of the 2020 season?
"I hope so. I just told the players don't be happy. Fans are doing a standing ovation when we were walking off and I was very confused about that. We lost," said head coach Lane Kiffin, addressing that singular question. "Not that I don't appreciate the fans or any of that. But the players need to know we didn't come here to play close or cover spreads or any of that. We told them they have tomorrow off and then come back to work. We've got to get better."
It would be easier to solve the issues if you could pinpoint one or two, narrow it down and focus in on them. The biggest issues is that there isn't a few issues – they're doing everything poorly.
This Rebel defense can't tackle, can't cover and can't regularly get pressure on the quarterback. They can't stop the run and can't stop the pass.
On Saturday, they did a decent job through three quarters of preventing the big plays and keeping Alabama in front of them. The counter to that is the Tide could get eight yards on every play if they wanted to.
"Maybe it's COVID. Missing spring ball and missing the tackling in it and the fundamentals," Kiffin said. "Maybe that has something to do with it. But I just would've never guessed this.
"I joked with (Saban) afterwards. I talked to him and I said 'I thought they played defense in the SEC.' I was joking with him because he was kind of laughing about the defense. This is three games in a row like this. I would not have thought this."
How does it get better? It might not be in 2020.
Co-defensive coordinators D.J. Durkin and Chris Partridge are doing a pretty solid job recruiting thus far, especially in the secondary.
The Rebels have a pair of defensive back commits, with hybrid safeties Dink Jackson and Tysheem Johnson that should be able to come in and potentially start day one next year. Both Jackson and Johnson are Sports Illustrated All-Americans and four-star recruits.
But the defense is also going to need some help up front. They recently picked up commitments from JUCO defensive end Jamond Gordon, and hold commitments from two others on the defensive line. But none of those guys are true, blue-chip prospects.
The defense may come together eventually, when Durkin and Partridge bring their guys in that fit their specifically multiple scheme. Both Durkin and Partridge have great track records on that side of the ball. There's reason to believe it will come together eventually. It's just looking like that might not be in 2020.
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