The physicality shown by the Ole Miss defense against Alabama was noticeable in several areas, none more than with linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and safety Cody Prewitt.
When you think physical you often think line of scrimmage. The Rebels were able to hold their own here and allow linebackers to make plays.
Nkemdiche had 11 tackles, Mike Marry six and Joel Kight five, but it wasn’t only the linebackers. CJ Johnson had six tackles, and you expect him to put up numbers.
Nkemdiche also showed up in the big-play categories with a sack, three TFLs and two forced fumbles leading to his SEC co-defensive player of the week honors. Prewitt had a game-high 13 tackles.
When you think physicality you think strength, but sometimes – as in the case of the defensive backs – quickness has just as much to do with it.
Among the standouts in the Rebels’ defensive performance was freshman tackle Issac Gross. Gross showed himself early in camp as a guy who would play this season. He’s quick off the ball, but the question has always been whether that quickness would off-set his lack of size. Against Alabama it did.
Gross (6-1) is listed at 254 pounds, which means he was giving up almost 50 pounds to Alabama All-American center Barrett Jones (6-5, 302). Gross still found his way to six tackles, doubling the out-put of the Rebels’ other inside defensive linemen.
Gilbert Pena, Gross’ back-up had two tackles, and Carlton Martin had one.
Inside linemen don’t typically have high tackle numbers, and Gross had seven over his first four games. He had no tackles against Texas, his first experience with a nationally ranked team.