The numbers were revealing and they were ugly, awfully ugly. Ole Miss had seemingly turned to Ole!! Miss- a virtual Mexican fiesta for opposing offenses. Head coach Ed Orgeron had to help the Ole Miss program and his struggling defense. He clearly wasn’t the answer in a program that has tremendous needs in every facet. So, he turned to familiar face. The Rebels have a new defensive coordinator, who won’t have problems being recognized in Gainesville. Former Florida defensive coordinator John Thompson (2002) will face the Gators in Oxford on September 22nd.
The Rebels were anything but rebellious. Despite having a monster in the middle of their defense in Patrick WIllis, Ole Miss was all too generous to most everybody they played. They defeated only Vanderbilt and state rival Mississippi State in league play.
Ole Miss allowed 22.9 points per game (9th SEC), 158.9 rushing yards per game (11th SEC), and 353.9 yards per game in total defense (11th SEC).
“I’m excited to have John Thompson as my defensive coordinator,” Orgeron said. “I think that you’re going to see more of an attack style, more of a blitzing attitude on first and second down, some unorthodox stuff on third down that gives offensive protection problems.”
“We want to do a great job on defense of creating turnovers,” he added. “I think John is excellent at that. With a lot of experience in the SEC as a defensive coordinator, I will lean on him a whole lot.”
“The thing I like about John Thompson is his expertise as the back end, and my expertise is the front end. I think it’s going to be a great marriage. We want to have a great defensive team and I expect to have that.”
In addition to Florida, Thompson has coached at LSU, Arkansas, Alabama, and South Carolina. He has not been in the league since he left Gainesville, taking a head coaching position at East Carolina for two years before settling in as the Athletic Director at his alma mater, Central Arkansas.
Orgeron believes that the defensive unit will be much improved. The defensive line returns intact. However, they’ll need to replace two linebackers and three-fourths of their secondary, which is another obvious reason to call upon John Thompson.
“We have to replace a great player in Patrick Willis,” Orgeron said. “I will say this: Patrick left a lot of things at Ole Miss for us. How to play with injuries, how to be a leader, how to be a great citizen, how to play in adversity, and hopefully that our team and our coaches learned a lot under Patrick.”
“I really feel that we’re going to have a very good defensive line,” he continued. “I mentioned Marcus Tillman. We have Greg Hardy on the other side who I’m probably going to play on offense and defense. He played a little bit last year and did very well on offense. He’s a big target so we’re going to find a place for him to play on offense. Kentrell Lockett at defensive end. The thing I’m most excited about is we’re going to finally have some 300 pounders in the middle with Peria Jerry, who is an excellent player who was hurt most of the season last year. Jeremy Garrett, Ted Laurent, and Lawon Scott. So, we’re going to build depth along our defensive line.”
“At cornerback is going to be with Dustin Mouzon. We recruited two great cornerbacks, going to be freshmen. I’m expected to see a lot of play out of those guys. John is going to do a great job of coaching the back end.”
The Rebels will have three games to get things organized before taking on what figures to be a vaunted Florida offense that should present a lot of problems for Thompson to contain.