OXFORD, Miss. – During the past spring and summer, Garrald McDowell felt he needed to get even more comfortable with the Rebels’ defensive playbook. After his outstanding performance against Georgia last Saturday, it appears the sophomore defensive end has a firm grip on it.
In his first two seasons in Oxford, McDowell studied as much as he could, hoping his progression as a defensive lineman would translate into a lot of minutes on the gridiron. However, it was a bit of a slow process for the Covington, Louisiana native as he did what most underclassmen hate to do: wait.
Sophomore defensive end Garrald McDowell
As a redshirt freshman last season, McDowell played in nine games as a reserve defensive lineman and member of the special teams. He finished the 2015 season with 11 tackles and a quarterback hurry, earning his first letter in the Rebels’ win over UT-Martin.
Seizing his opportunity
A season later, McDowell has now played in Ole Miss’ first four games and is seizing his opportunity at the defensive end position. He has already recorded eight tackles in 2016, including a sack last Saturday on Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason for a loss of seven yards that resulted in a fumble recovered by redshirt freshman Austrian Robinson.
McDowell finished the game against the No. 11 Bulldogs with four tackles, two of them solo, one tackle for loss, one forced fumble, one sack and one quarterback hurry. He saw his hard work pay off in the form of playmaking—hit after hit. And he looks at his performance against Georgia as something off which he can build.
Fadol Brown’s leadership helping younger defensive ends
Outside of friends and family members, McDowell says he has leaned on the leadership of senior defensive end Fadol Brown, who, because of a foot injury suffered last season, has been unable to play for the 16th-ranked Rebels (2-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) for much of this season.
Whenever Brown has the opportunity to talk to the young defensive linemen, he does so, making sure they understand the importance of knowing the playbook and their position on the field.
Realizing they have to step up and produce on the field, McDowell and sophomore defensive end Victor Evans have been absorbing the wisdom Brown has imparted. Evans has recorded three tackles and one sack for a loss of three yards thus far this season.
“We just have to make the most of our opportunities,” McDowell reiterated.
McDowell: ‘Play with a chip on our shoulder’
On Saturday, when his Rebels face a Memphis team that is averaging 478 yards per game on offense, the 6-foot-2, 261-pound McDowell expects to continue his momentum and duplicate the success he had against Georgia. Though he remembers how the final three quarters went for Ole Miss last season against the Tigers, McDowell and his teammates have worked hard to prepare for the task at hand.
“They’re a good offensive team,” he said about Memphis (3-0). “They’ve scored 77 points, so we just have to play with a chip on our shoulder.”
(Feature image credit: Petre Thomas, Ole Miss Athletics)