OXFORD, Miss. – Detric Bing-Dukes packed a punch for Ole Miss last season. He just didn’t pack it as much when he was asked to stray into open spaces.
Bing-Dukes, a junior college transfer who began his career at Georgia, was one in a line of linebacker experiments for the Rebels last season: There were seven different starting combinations in the base 4-2-5.
One of the unknowns this season with August in the distance is how linebacker play will improve. New defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff has stressed a “less is more” approach with a scaled-back playbook that players say helps them think less and strike faster.
For Bing-Dukes (6 feet 1, 242 pounds), the plan also includes covering less space.
“I feel more comfortable in the box. I feel like I can go outside the box, but in the box I feel more comfortable and in control,” he said.
Ole Miss allowed 246.3 rushing yards per game last season, which was last in the SEC (by more than 18 yards per game) and No. 120 nationally.
McGriff believes covering less real estate will allow Bing-Dukes and his other middle linebackers to maintain gap integrity, which is the first step in slowing the run. When Bing-Dukes holds his ground, he has shown himself to be a more than capable tackler. He had 41 stops last year, three for loss, playing in a mostly reserve role. He appeared in 11 games with three starts.
“Tackling is something you have to work on every day. I feel like we’re getting better at it and will continue to work on it,” he said.
Bing-Dukes’ spring work did not go unnoticed by McGriff. While linebacker starters were shuffled in and out last fall, the first team was stabilized in March with Bing-Dukes in the middle and rangy senior DeMarquis Gates on the outside.
Bing-Dukes quickly came to an understanding of what McGriff wanted from him.
“I thought he by far was the player that improved the most,” McGriff said. “We’ve done a good job of tailoring the scheme to keep those guys in the box. I think you’ll see his confidence go up, and he’s exactly right: We’re going to build this entire defense by keeping our linebackers in the box as much as possible and allowing our secondary to adjust to the formation and movement.”
(You can follow Parrish Alford on Twitter @parrishalford)
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