Ole Miss

Ole Miss looking for answers on defense in Week 3

Ole Miss defensive back C.J. Moore (26) tackles South Alabama running back Berron Tyson (34) during the game in Oxford on Saturday.
Ole Miss defensive back C.J. Moore (26) tackles South Alabama running back Berron Tyson (34) during the game in Oxford on Saturday. Associated Press

Wesley McGriff is looking long and hard at possible changes to the Ole Miss defense, but he’s looking more at personnel than scheme.

McGriff, the defensive coordinator, and Phil Longo, the offensive coordinator, were the primary speakers at the regularly scheduled Ole Miss football press conference Monday while interim coach Matt Luke attended the school’s hearing before the NCAA’s committee on infractions.

Ole Miss plays at California Saturday in a 9:30 p.m. CT kickoff.

One of the nation’s most porous run defenses last year, Ole Miss showed improvement with 170 rushing yards allowed against South Alabama. Last week against Tennessee-Martin the Rebels allowed 219 rushing yards, 188 to junior college transfer back Ladarius Galloway of Indianola.

“The issue we must get corrected is tackling. You can’t win games when you’re giving up yards like that in the run game,” McGriff said.

UTM rushed for 67 yards on 14 carries in the first quarter. The Skyhawks gained 67 yards in the second quarter also, but 59 came on one play, a third-and-2 when the Rebels were aligned incorrectly, McGriff said.

The long run from Galloway put UTM at the Ole Miss 2, and it scored on the next play.

McGriff was asked if an extra linebacker instead of a defensive back might have helped there, but he defended the Rebels’ 4-2-5 base.

Had defensive back Jaylon Jones been down on the tight end other changes would have set in motion, and players would have been properly aligned.

McGriff praised the play of middle linebacker Detric Bing-Dukes off the bench and said he’ll compete with Donta Evans for the starting job this week. That won’t be the only competition, but McGriff was less specific about other positions.

“The last piece of the puzzle is getting the right guys on the field,” McGriff said. “Don’t be afraid to shift the depth chart. We’ll make the necessary changes, and we’ll move forward.”

Shea Patterson honored: Ole Miss sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson was named SEC offensive player of the week after throwing for a school-record 489 yards with five touchdowns and one interception against Tennessee-Martin. Patterson has thrown for more than 400 yards in back-to-back games and has totaled 918 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception on the season.

Injury Updates: Tight end Dawson Knox (foot) emerged as the starter in spring drills. He’s expected to practice this week and play for the first time at Cal. ... Freshman cornerback D.D. Bowie (thumb) will be evaluated this week. He could be back for Cal.

Speaking of tight ends: Offensive coordinator Phil Longo calls Knox, at 6-4, 250, a hybrid that not all teams have. However, Longo says sophomore Octavious Cooley, a four-star signee in the 2016 class, has been making strides learning the offense, and his role will increase. Cooley had one catch for 4 yards against UTM.

In demand: Wide receivers coach Jacob Peeler coached the same position at Cal last season but found himself on the market when Sonny Dykes’ staff was replaced. He’s been able to assist McGriff with his knowledge of Cal’s receivers, but Longo says Peeler has a good feel for Cal’s defensive personnel too and has been helpful in identifying the Bears’ best players on that side as well.

Game plan

Who: Ole Miss vs. California

When: 9:30 p.m., Saturday

Where: Berkeley, Calif.

TV: ESPN

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