Notebook: Tylan Knight taking full advantage of opportunities
Tylan Knight is four games into his Ole Miss career but the freshman has already made an impact. The Pearl native got his fair share of the carries against Kent State on Saturday and managed to provide a highlight-reel run in the second half.
Knight finished behind Scottie Phillips with 62 yards on 6 carries. The longest run was 41 yards in the third quarter.
“(Knight’s) factoring into the game and it was good to see him get a carry late in the game,” Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke said. “You kind of saw that spark and how physical he runs the ball for his size. He finishes going forward and he’s like a little pit bull. He’s really physical and tough. He provides a spark and I think you’ll see his roll increase going forward.”
Knight has gotten a more prominent role in the Rebels’ running game due to Eric Sweeney missing the first four games of the season due to mononucleosis. Over the course of the first month of the season, Knight has 107 yards, second behind Phillips’ 467, and averaging 5.6 yards a carry.
He is also the primary kick returner and on the punt block unit.
Knight’s recruitment, or lack thereof, was highly publicized last winter, but Luke liked what he saw of Knight and the Rebels came in with a late offer that he accepted
“Well, when you go and base it purely on height and weight, you probably don’t offer him,” Luke said. “But you’re looking at a young man who won a state championship, was the (Class) 6A player of the year in Mississippi. …Sooner or later, you have to say hey, we’re going to take a shot at this guy. When you’re at the University of Mississippi and he’s the best player in Mississippi, I think he deserved a shot and I think that’s shown.”
The Rebel defense has experience in some areas and very little in others. The linebacker corps is one where there is a youth movement taking over. Sophomore Mohamad Sanogo and freshman Kevontae’ Ruggs are the starting middle and outside linebackers, respectively. Behind them on the depth chart are a pair of freshman in Jacquez Jones and Josh Clarke.
With the need for the defense to improve on a weekly basis, and maybe faster than these underclassman are able to, it has become a balancing act for the defensive coaching staff to not want to give into the temptation of putting more experienced players in.
“It’s always a challenge coaching when you have young guys out there,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said. “They’re going to make mistakes and you try to coach them through it. You wish they wouldn’t make mistakes, but it’s growing pains. You’re on a big stage, you’re in the SEC West. They’re doing a good job of going to the next play.
Heading into Saturday’s game at No. 5 LSU (8:15 p.m., ESPN), Ole Miss will be reatively close to full strength.
During his weekly press conference on Monday, Matt Luke noted wide receiver A.J. Brown tweaked his hamstring against Kent State but the prognosis has been good and is probable to play in Baton Rouge. Linebacker Josh Clarke will be out of this week’s game after suffering a high ankle sprain.
Ken Webster will try to get back to full speed this week and Benito Jones is also probable after playing on Saturday but was not 100 percent.