Mississippi has no questions to answer on offense this fall outside of the running back opening. NFL talent abounds at wide receiver encouraging Rebel fans to think the team can present stiff competition for SEC foes.
Then you look at the defense.
Finishing 123rd out of 129 FBS schools in total defense, the Rebels have been looking for anything to improve the hapless performance from last season. Signing five linebackers in the recent signing class is an example. The newcomers are led by Jonathan Hess from Vestavia Hills, AL and Jacquez Jones from Tuscaloosa, AL. Head coach Matt Luke obviously went hard for linebackers.
Oddly enough, his most recent recruit isn’t even a player.
Enter new linebacker coach Jon Sumrall.
A former linebacker at the University of Kentucky from 2002-2004, Sumrall started his coaching career in the Bluegrass State as a graduate assistant before heading to the University of San Diego, Tulane and Troy, serving in many capacities.
One title you won’t find on his resume is “tactical magician.”
Before Sumrall headed to Tulane University for three seasons as co-defensive coordinator, the Green Wave were finishing a season ranked 71st in total defense. Just two seasons later, the Greenies were 22nd in the country in total defense and 11th in red zone defense.
His biggest turnaround would come at Troy. As assistant head coach and linebackers coach, Sumrall presided over a defense in 2014 that was 118th in rushing and 107th in total defense. In three seasons, he completely turned the Sun Belt Conference on its head, miraculously finishing 1st in red zone defense, 7th in rushing defense, and 24th in total defense.
Those numbers were good enough for the top of the Sun Belt, as the Trojans would finish the season with 11-wins including one over then-18th-ranked LSU.
Those numbers will be a welcomed sight for Ole Miss fans who have endeared far too many defensive busts in 2017. As the 2018 season approaches, Ole Miss fans are worried they may be closing their eyes again when the opposing team has the ball. Judging by the numbers above, that may no longer be the case.
(You can follow Brad Logan on Twitter @BradLoganCOTE)
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