OXFORD, Miss. – Neither defensive tackle Breeland Speaks nor his Rebel teammates want to miss an assignment and be forced to answer to the “Crime Dawg.”
“That’s a hard, tough guy,” Speaks said about Ole Miss defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff, who goes by the “Crime Dawg” moniker.
“Some of the toughest practices I have been through,” Speaks said when asked about McGriff’s workouts.
“He has an Army mindset. It’s his way or the highway, and you don’t want to be on the other side of the Crime Dawg.”
Breeland Speaks on Coach Wesley McGriff
McGriff, who was named defensive coordinator on December 16, 2016 and promoted to the associate head coach of the Rebels on July 20, 2017, has been a positive presence on the defensive side for Ole Miss. Interim head coach Matt Luke said during spring ball he saw a difference in the players’ reactions to McGriff, whether the “Crime Dawg” was yelling out a play or blowing his whistle.
“The No. 1 thing was discipline,” Luke said when asked to describe what he noticed about the McGriff-led defense during spring practices. “You noticed that right out of the chute. They’re all wearing the same things — the way they set their helmets – the little things. I immediately saw discipline. They keep it simple, and they do something fast and physical every day.
“They just play good, hard-nosed football. But the discipline really stood out to me.”
Head coach Matt Luke on McGriff’s defense
Landsharks will be young with tremendous upside
McGriff is a hard-nosed, yet enthusiastic, coach who is perfect for a Rebel defense that lost 13 players from a season ago. During 2016, Ole Miss allowed its opponents to average 34 points per game while amassing 246.3 yards per game on the ground. But even though the Rebels’ defense will be young in some spots this season, Coach Luke sees great upside as McGriff readies the unit for the September 2 season opener against South Alabama.
“I’m so excited that Wesley McGriff is going to be our associate head coach,” Luke said Monday.
“He’s a proven leader of young men. And what he did with our defense this spring was phenomenal.”
Matt Luke on Wesley McGriff
“Crime Dawg” ready to run an attacking defense
On Monday, at his first press conference as associate head coach, the “Crime Dawg” explained he wants the Rebels to be known for having a fast and physical defense.
McGriff said their style this season will be that of a 4-3 attacking defense which he feels will be simplified from what they ran last year — and should be fun for the players.
And if past history dictates, fans shouldn’t be surprised to see McGriff’s plans translate into defensive success.
In 2012, McGriff was co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach at Ole Miss. His defense finished second in the SEC and top 15 in the NCAA in tackles for loss (7.7) and sacks per game (2.8). In that season, Ole Miss finished 7-6 with a win over Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
“We’re going to be aggressive but simple,” McGriff said.
“We’re going to give each player a lot of ownership in the defense. We want to see these guys have fun. There’s nothing wrong with being disciplined, playing sound defense and attacking and having fun at the same time.”
With Shea Patterson at quarterback and a stable of talented offensive players, McGriff knows the importance of getting the defense off the field. “One of the things we talk about all the time is we want to feed the offense the football,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re getting takeaways and getting our offense the football so we can get points.”
Fall practices begin August 2 and Matt Luke’s plan is to hire an offensive line coach as quickly as possible. On Monday, he said he hoped to have that hire completed by the end of the week so he can focus on his job as head coach.
Ole Miss has yet to release the NCAA response it received last Friday to Ole Miss’ response to the NCAA Notice of Allegations; however, Athletics Director Ross Bjork indicated on Monday that it should be forthcoming as soon as the university has a chance to redact the names of all involved parties. He indicated his timetable is “in a week or so.”
Ole Miss opens the season September 2 at 6:30 p.m. and hosts South Alabama in Vaught-Hemingway.