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Previewing Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss: Defensive Line

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DEFENSIVE LINE

Player Ht/Wt Class Position Tackles TFL Sacks
Brandon Williams 6'5"/246 Jr. DE 21 12.5 11
Jake Ratliff 6'7"/255 Sr. DE 11 1.5 .5
McKinner Dixon 6'3"/250 Jr. DE 30 9.5 7
Brandon Sesay 6'6"/278 Jr. DT/DE 8 .5 0
Colby Whitlock 6'2"/281 So. DT 35 5 1
Rajon Henley 6'3"/266 Jr. DT 8 1.5 1.5
Richard Jones 6'1"/272 Jr. DT 21 0 0
Marcus Tillman 6'4"/260 Jr. DE 27 6.5 1.5
Kentrell Lockett 6'5"/240 So. DE 35 11 2.5
Ted Laurent 6'0"/303 S0. NT 23 7 1
Peria Jerry 6'2"/290 Sr. DT 47 17 6
Greg Hardy 6'4"/265 Jr. DT 17 9.5 8.5
Lawon Scott 6'3"/322 So. DT 19 2.5 2
Jerrell Powe 6'2"/290 Sr. NT 7 3.5 1.5
Emmanuel Stephens 6'3"/235 Jr. DE 18 5.5 1

Texas Tech


McKinner Dixon says "face".

Perhaps the most impressive improvement of the defense was the play of the maturation of the defensive line. Texas Tech went from 82nd in the nation, allowing 177.00 yards a game in 2007 to allowing 133.50 yards a game, good for 45th in the nation. It was a combination of new players as well as other players that just grew up a bit.

Starting with the ends, the arrival of McKinner Dixon gave Texas Tech two quality ends, who could rush the passer, the other standout being Brandon Williams. Rather than have just be a one-trick-pony with just one end that could be double-teamed, the arrival of Dixon signaled an end to focusing on just one side of the line. Dixon's arrival also meant that Texas Tech went from 26 sacks a game, 46th in the nation, to 30 sacks in 2008, good for 25th in the nation. That's significant improvement, and without belaboring the point too much, the conversation as to why Texas Tech defense improved can start here.

Colby Whitlock took his lumps as a freshman and learned quite a bit. Whitlock didn't get the recognition that he might have deserved this year, but the progression that he made from his freshman year to his sophomore year has been dramatic.

The surprise of the defensive line is perhaps Richard Jones. Jones was slotted behind Henley, but after Henley was injured in the year, Jones stepped in and did a decent job.

The biggest problem with the line, is Ole Miss' strength, which is making tackles behind the line of scrimmage. There's no push amongst the defensive tackles other than Whitlock and along the ends it's the "Williams and Dixon Show" and that's it. Texas Tech is 106th in the nation in tackles for loss and I think it was all to evident against the Sooners how this group can tend to be pushed around. Granted, there are some individual players (i.e. Whitlock and Dixon) that still do a good job of stopping the run, but for the most part there's plenty to be worried about with the Ole Miss offense.

I should also emphasize that the rushing defense got worse as the season progressed. Texas Tech did give up 161 yards against Kansas, and I realize that this was a blowout win, but gave up 186 to Oklahoma State, somewhat expected, 299 to Oklahoma and 229 to Baylor and the incredible Robert Griffin. Not to mention, Texas Tech gave up 11 rushing touchdowns in those last three games, and only gave up 10 in the previous 9 games.

Things have got to tighten up.

Mississippi


Peria Jerry, he is hurting people.

These guys are good.

For the year, the most yards in any given game that the Rebels gave up is 131 against Vanderbilt. The Rebels' last 4 games weren't against the best competition (Auburn, La. Monroe, LSU and Mississippi State) but during these last 4 games these guys only gave up 75, 72, 37 and -51 yards.

Yep, these guys are good.

The leader of this group is Peria Jerry, pictured above, and is an absolute beast. An astounding 17 tackles for a loss and 6 sacks from the defensive tackle position. Peria is probably the highest rated defensive tackle on NFL draft boards in 2009. There's a couple of guys that you should pay attention to on the Ole Miss defense, but Jerry is, without a doubt, one of them. He's going to play on Sundays.

Right behind Jerry in terms of production are defensive end Kentrell Lockett, who, for the year, has 11 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks and defensive tackle Greg Hardy, leading the team in sacks with 8.5 for the year. I should also note that Lockett has been much better in the 2nd half of the season, where he registered 8 of his 11 TFL's in the last 6 games.

Ted Laurent, Marcus Tillman and Emmanuel Stephens all dominate the team stats in tackles for loss and once again proves that this is an active defensive line that is doing a tremendous job of getting penetration, pushing opposing offensive lines backwards and making plays.

I've saved the best statistics for last. As good as Texas Tech has been defensively, especially in terms of sacks, Mississippi has been on another level. For the year, Ole Miss is 5th in the nation in sacks with 37 for the year and averaging over 3 a game. If you want to look at tackles for loss, the Rebels are 1st in the nation at 8.92 PER GAME! How about them apples? For the year, Ole Miss has had 107 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for 454 yards and I find that utterly amazing. This is going to be a real test for the Texas Tech offensive line that only gave up 5 sacks for the entire year and only lost 150 yards rushing (58 of those yards were Harrell's) for the year with Baron Batch only losing 12 yards for the year on 111 carries and Shannon Woods only losing 11 yards for the year on 135 carries.

Conclusion:

Ole Miss may have the best defensive line in the nation with 4 or 5 guys that could be playing on Sundays. They're just loaded with talent up and down the line. The Texas Tech defensive line has been improved, but this one's really not close.

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