Knight Rider: Tylan Knight is a ‘ride-or-die’ kind of player, willing to play wherever Rebels need him
OXFORD, Miss. — Tylan Knight is one of those “ride-or-die” guys. He will ride with the offense, he will ride with the defense, he will ride with special teams. He just wants to ride toward a victory.
The Ole Miss junior has seen much of his time at running back along with Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner. Knight has rushed five times for 17 yards and has caught a couple of passes for nine more.
But attrition in the secondary forced the Rebels’ coaching staff to move the versatile Pearl, Miss., native to the other side of the ball against Auburn last week. Ole Miss dropped a 35-28 decision to the Tigers.
The move was not that foreign to Knight. He played as a defensive back during his freshman year in Oxford and as Mississippi’s 6-A high school Co-Player of the year, he played on both sides of the ball.
In high school, he tallied 117 tackles as a junior and 123 as a senior in helping to lead his team to a 16-0 record and a state championship.
With his experience on defense, it was just a matter of learning the new scheme of defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin.
“Defense doesn’t really change too much. All you’ve really got to do is learn the terminology, and once you learn the terminology, defense is defense. Cover two is still going to be cover two,” Knight said.
“I really had a pretty good understanding (of the defense going into the game), I kind of spent a lot of time in the film room this past week just to be prepared to be in the right position to make a play.”
Ole Miss DB/RB Tylan Knight
Against Auburn, Knight made four tackles, two of them solo stops on special teams. One tackle came on a kickoff where he bottled the Tigers up inside their own 20, and the other came when he nabbed the punter after an errant snap.
A3Q, 7:01 | uburn muffs the kickoff return and will have icky field position. Tylan Knight on the tackle again for the Rebels! Auburn has the ball on their 12.
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) October 24, 2020
Y'all, Tylan Knight is playing his tail off. That's the tweet.
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) October 24, 2020
Knight’s biggest special teams play
But Knight’s biggest special teams play never showed up on the stat sheet. It did, however, appear in every replay on college football television shows.
In the fourth quarter leading 28-27, Ole Miss kicked off and the ball fell short of the deep receivers and rolled toward Auburn’s Shaun Shivers. Numerous replays show the ball touching Shivers’ finger and roll into the end zone where Knight fell on the ball for an apparent touchdown.
The officials ruled the play a touchback and instead of the Rebels taking a 35-27 lead, Auburn drove down for the winning touchdown.
Although he was in the middle of the play, Knight was unsure what was going on after the play.
“I didn’t actually hear a whistle until I was in the end zone and had landed on the ball,” Knight said. “But just on kickoff you know, when you see the ball rolling — and I figured he had touched it just because the way he reacted — my instinct was go get the ball because I figured he touched it and that’s a free play right there.”
The play was one of several that cost Ole Miss the game to drop the Rebels to 1-4 on the season.
Knight said he did not know if his appearance on defense was a one-time thing as the Rebels get two members of the secondary back this week after sitting out due to COVID-19 protocol, but the Ole Miss website did provide a clue. On the Rebels’ roster, Knight is listed as a defensive back this week.
“I’m just here to play wherever they need me to play.“
Hopefully, Knight can ride his abilities into Nashville Saturday where the Rebels take on winless Vanderbilt. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. and can be seen on the SEC Network.
Here’s what Knight had to say in Tuesday’s Ole Miss press conference.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.