Defense making steady progress this spring

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, March 30, 2016

More attrition than usual has made Ole Miss’ progress on the defensive side of the ball slower than coaches would like this spring, but things are starting to pick up.

The Rebels have to replace multiple starters at linebacker, safety and tackle with a lot of youth getting looks at those spots. Injuries have made Ole Miss even younger with defensive end Fadol Brown, tackle Issac Gross and nickel corner Tony Conner all being held out this spring.

Slowly but surely, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said, progress is being made among the youngsters.

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“We’ve started out slow and we’ve had to go slower with all the new faces and counting on some of the guys who just got here and some of the redshirt freshmen to help us in the two-deep,” Wommack said. “We’ve gone a little slower than we have in the past and we’re starting to pick things up, and we’ve gotten better I think every day.”

Safety has been a position in constant flux with many of the players cross-training at free safety, rover and Huskie.

“We moved (Zedrick Woods) over to free safety, and we moved Myles (Hartsfield) over to rover and tried to create some more competition, and I think it’s been good for us,” Wommack said.

Wommack said redshirt freshman Montrell Custis has been a standout at Huskie while rising junior A.J. Moore is also working mainly at the position after getting reps there a season ago.

“Custis, Tony and A.J., we ought to be in pretty good shape with that I believe,” Wommack said.

Breeland Speaks and D.J. Jones will take over in the middle of the defensive line along with Gross, but Wommack said he likes the strides sophomore Ross Donelly and freshmen Austrian Robinson and Benito Jones have made to possibly be a part of the rotation on the interior come the fall.

“The guy that I’ve really noticed is Ross Donelly,” Wommack said. “He’s a guy that’s really showed up to me and done some really good things in there for us. Big, physical, his quickness has improved, and I really like that out of him.”

Ole Miss is also looking for a third corner and some depth behind starters Kendarius Webster and Tony Bridges. Kailo Moore, Carlos Davis and Cam Ordway are back while redshirt freshman Jalen Julius is a player coaches are high on, but they are all still a work in progress.

“I think there’s just some inconsistency there,” Wommack said.