OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss true freshman Tylan Knight is making the most of his move from running back to the Rebels’ defense.
After season-ending injuries to 60% of its secondary–Montrell Custis, Jaylon Jones, and C.J. Moore–Ole Miss shuffled players around—some from the offensive side of the ball—to help fill vacancies.
Last week before facing Louisiana-Monroe, running backs Armani Linton and Tylan Knight moved to defense, with Linton playing safety and Knight moving to the Star position, a hybrid linebacker/safety.
The two stepped in and added much-needed depth. Linton’s stat line included 6 tackles, 4 solo, 1 sack, 1.5 tackle for loss (TFL), and 1 quarterback hurry (QBH). Knight finished with 3 tackles, 2 solo, .5 TFL, and 1 QBH.
When asked about Knight after Wednesday’s practice, head coach Matt Luke noted the true freshman’s ability to play multiple positions. “Tylan is a unique guy,” Luke said.
“He’s got a lot of what coaches call the ‘it’ factor. He has an energy and presence. He’s just a good football player. Tylan is young and he’s going to make mistakes, but he’s going to give you all he’s got and that’s all you can ask of any player.”
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke on Tylan Knight
Tylan Knight speaks with the media after practice Wednesday. (Video: Archie Breland, The Rebel Walk)
Knight enjoying the move
Because of his 5-foot-7, 170-lb size, Knight was not heavily recruited out of high school. Other than Louisiana-Lafayette, Ole Miss was his only other FBS offer.
At Pearl High School, Knight earned the Player of the Year award in the state of Mississippi, leading the Pirates to the 6A state title. He was also the Co-MVP of the Alabama/Mississippi All-Star Game.
Knight played both ways for Pearl and was a key part of the offense and defense, so the switch last week has been exciting for him.
“I love it,” Knight said. “It’s like going back to my home. My high school ran the same stuff, just with different calls and checks. Once I learn those, I will be good,” he commented.
“I started smiling too much when they said they were going to move me back to that side of the ball. I love the defensive side of the ball. To get moved back at an SEC school was a dream come true.”
Tylan Knight on the move to defense
Knight dispelled any notions that he might have been bothered about so many schools passing on him during recruiting. “I believed in myself and had a great support system behind me,” he said. “Once you put it on film, there isn’t much people can say about you.”
Shifts and motion
Knight and the Ole Miss defense have been preparing this week to face an Arkansas offense that employs many shifts and motions. The Rebels will have to maintain solid eye discipline throughout the contest if they want to have success against the Razorbacks.
“It’s part of the game of football. You’ve got to be able to adjust to it,” linebackers coach Jon Sumrall said of the Razorbacks’ offensive motion.
“You’ve got to be prepared for it—expect it and just be ready to adjust to what that situation presents. We should be good as long as we just lock in and make sure we know our eyes are where they’re supposed to be and pay attention to detail and stay focused.”
Jon Sumrall, Ole Miss linebackers coach
Overall, the Ole Miss defense has had a good week of preparation and appears to be focused for another tough SEC challenge this weekend. As for Knight, he’s happy to get to play defense. If you’re wondering why, it’s simple. “I get to hit people,” he said, smiling.
Kickoff at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock is set for 6:30 p.m. (CT) and the game will be televised on the SEC Network.
Hotty Toddy and Fins Up!