OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Just four games into the season,
Mississippi's defense is hurting.
Defensive end Kentrell Lockett is out for the season, hobbling
around on crutches after tearing his ACL. Safety Johnny Brown has a
sore knee. Cornerback Jeremy McGee is recovering from a concussion.
And that's bad news for the Rebels, considering they were
already having trouble stopping opponents before the rash of
injuries. They're giving up 32 points per game, which ranks last in
the Southeastern Conference.
Now with a patchwork defense, including several freshmen in the
secondary, Ole Miss (2-2, 0-1 SEC) faces a Kentucky (3-1, 0-1) team
known for explosive offensive playmakers Randall Cobb and Derrick
Locke at 11:21 a.m. today at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said his young players are
physically capable, but their inexperience scares him.
"Those guys have to keep absorbing, study, and keep getting
better," he said. "It's not easy ... it takes time for them to
really feel the speed of this league that we're in. It's not easy,
but I have confidence in those guys. They have to get to practice
and go to work."
Even the Ole Miss defensive players who aren't hurt have failed
to live up to expectations. The veteran defensive line, which was
supposed to be dominant, hasn't been able to get much pressure on
With plenty of time to throw, opponents have picked apart the
Ole Miss secondary. The Rebels are one of only three teams out of
120 in the Football Bowl Subdivision with no interceptions.
Now that Lockett, who was arguably the Rebels' best pass rusher,
can't help on the field, others like junior college transfer Wayne
Dorsey must improve quickly.
At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, Dorsey was one of the most heavily
recruited junior college players in the country last year, but
hasn't had the desired on-field affect with six tackles, including
two for a loss and a sack through four games.
"I can't judge anybody but me, but I know I haven't been
anywhere near the expectation level I set for myself," Dorsey
said. "I come out everyday and try to get better and hopefully
soon it will all come together."
If Brown and McGee can't play, the Rebels will be forced to give
several freshmen heavy playing time - including cornerbacks Charles
Sawyer and Tony Grimes, and safeties Brishen Mathews and Frank
"It eliminates a lot of things you think you can do,"
defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said. "It makes you simplify to
where they can go out, execute a few things and hopefully do those
things well. As they mature and learn, you can add more to your
Kentucky has its own defensive issues, and is trying to rebound
from last week's deflating 48-14 loss to Florida. In that game, the
Wildcats have a tough time tackling the Gators' best playmakers,
especially running back Trey Burton, who accounted for six
Mississippi has elusive quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who's
thrown for 733 yards and rushed for 219 yards so far this season.
Running back Brandon Bolden is coming off the best game of his
career - he rushed for 228 yards against Fresno State.
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said simple mistakes and poor
tackling form have been the Wildcats' main issues - but that both
are problems that can be easily corrected.
"We have enough good athletes to do what we're supposed to
do," he said. "If we bring our feet and run through people, we
still have a chance to have a really good defense."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)