One of the positives of playing on a defense that was statistically one of the worst in the country last fall is the only way to go is up. To be fair, a majority of the issues for Mississippi last fall was the absence of any linebacker play. That said, defensive lineman Josiah Coatney is making no excuses.
The transfer from Holmes Community College has been garnering positive reviews from head coach Matt Luke.
“The praise coming from coach Luke means a lot coming from a man who I respect both as a coach and a person,” Coatney said with a smile.
Coatney tallied eight tackles in the final game last season in the Rebels win over Mississippi State and started every game on the defensive line.
As for becoming an integral part of a more productive defense, the Douglasville, GA native is ready to make the charge as a leader both on and off the field in his junior campaign.
“The defense wants to be on a different stage and a different light this year,” Coatney said. “We can’t look back. We have to look forward. If everyone wants to move forward and be a better defense, everyone must be accountable and be leaders.”
As everyone knows, the numbers were bad last year. Mississippi finished 123rd out of 129 FBS schools in total defense; that’s not something Coatney and his teammates are dwelling on.
“We don’t have to look at the numbers (from last year) we know (what they were),” Coatney said. “We must know the assignments so we can teach the younger guys so when they do come in, they’ll (be prepared).”
A new face on the defense is linebackers coach Jon Sumrall. While reinventing defenses at both Troy and Tulane, Sumrall brings new energy to a defense sorely in need of it.
What will it take for the Ole Miss defense to make a similarly dramatic turnaround?
“All 11-players on defense have to know their assignment and be on the same page,” Coatney said. “Last year some players were hesitant because of (indecision) about where to be. We know where we are supposed to be so we can play fast. We have cleaned that up.
“We have to take advantage of every single play, every single down, and do our best to get negative (plays), turnovers and defend deep balls and stop giving up big plays.
“A better defense equals a better offense. Coach Luke wants the defense to be on par with the offense, or even better.”
The Rebels open the season against Texas Tech in Houston at NRG Stadium on September 1st.
(You can follow Brad Logan on Twitter @BradLoganCOTE)
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