Miles Battle, Otis Reese helping the Rebels succeed one game at a time
OXFORD, Miss. — We are less than twenty-four hours before No. 10 Ole Miss (6-1, 3-1 SEC) and No. 18 Auburn (5-2, 2-1) kick off on the Plains. The Rebels enter the game on something of a defensive surge after holding LSU to just 77 yards rushing and 17 total points last Saturday.
Part of that defensive excellence comes from the play of Otis Reese and cornerback-turned-receiver Miles Battle. We had the chance to speak with Reese and Battle earlier this week.
The last two games, the Rebels’ defense has been much-improved. Against Tennessee and LSU, Ole Miss only surrendered five touchdowns combined.
Rebels’ safety Otis Reese, currently second on the team with 54 tackles, talked about the unit’s improvement. “We just keep building. The last couple game we’ve been having a real good solid game on defense,” Reese explained.
“We’re just trying to get better week in and week out, getting corrections and getting better. I really think the defense is coming along and we’re starting to show it, we are just hungry for more.”
Along with the defensive unit making strides, linebacker Mark Robinson’s performance in the past few games should not go unnoticed, either. Over the past two games, he has led the team in tackles in each contest, recording 14 against Tennessee and12 against LSU.
As some may recall, Robinson transferred to Ole Miss last season and was a high school teammate of Reese’s.
“I really felt like he (Robinson) deserved the opportunity to play at a school like Ole Miss,” Reese said earlier this week. “He was like ‘Hey, yeah I do,’” Reese added.
“He just went and prayed about it. It was all God, it was nothing I did. It was just all God, it was meant to be. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever been around, besides myself. From the training, from the work, how he takes the field, off the field, he came here and made it happen. He earned everything he’s got.”
Otis Reese on Mark Robinson
Reese and Robinson share some friendly competition and often talk about who is the better tackler. “He’s not a better tackler than me,” Reese said. “I’m going to give it to him — he hits harder than me, but he’s not a better tackler than me,” he said smiling.
In an effort to help his team and add depth to a depleted wide receiver room, Miles Battle, a 6’4,” 205-pound junior from Houston, Texas, made a position switch from his cornerback position following the Tennessee game.
Initially, as a freshman, Battle came to Ole Miss as a wide receiver but switched to corner last season when the defense needed his help. Now he is back at wide receiver to help fill the void left following the injuries of Jonathan Mingo and Braylon Sanders.
On Tuesday, Battle talked about what it has been like making the position switch. “It’s been fun,” he said.
“I grew up playing receiver, then playing defense, it’s just like another refresher going back to receiver again. I know both sides of the ball and I am able to play both sides of the ball. It was just another opportunity and I took it.”
Miles Battle on switching to WR from CB
Playing both receiver and cornerback requires a lot of the same skill set from a physical standpoint. Battle discussed where he thinks his position will be down the road. “In the future I see myself as a corner, but right now I feel like this just shows how versatile of a player and how good of an athlete I am.”
There is no doubt Battle has the ability to play football beyond his days at Ole Miss. At both positions, he possesses the size he needs to be successful and moving between the two speaks volumes about his talent and his versatility.
Battle’s work ethic is also evident and should not be over-looked.
“I do most of my corner work after practice, or after hours, right now since I’ll be playing receiver this week. I’m kind of focusing on that (playing receiver), but I still keep up with working on my (cornerback) technique and everything. I still do film work on the team we are going to play on defense too.“
Miles Battle on preparing to play CB and WR
This season players have continued to focus on going 1-0 every week and not looking too far ahead. Coach Kiffin has said multiple times the team should not be worried about rankings until the final rankings come out because, that is ultimately the only one that matters.
In his weekly press conference on Monday, the Rebels’ head coach commented on not realizing the team is eligible for a bowl now that they’ve recorded six wins.
“Someone said this morning, ‘You guys are bowl eligible.’ I didn’t even realize that because it’s not the way we think. Honestly, we’re trying to change the way a lot of people think, so we’ll see if we can get there.“
Battle also addressed the subject of not looking too far ahead.
“I feel like last year if we would have hit six wins, we would’ve been really excited. Now we’re just really looking more towards those bigger bowls or the playoffs. Really we’re not just worried about being bowl eligible, we’re trying to go 1-0 every week.”
Miles Battle on being 6-1
Reese echoed Battle’s sentiments. “I like that, I love it. We are one game at a time, 1-0 every week. We don’t even think about all that. Coach (Kiffin) always says ‘Don’t worry about the rankings, the only ranking that matters is the final rankings at the end of the season.’ I love that talk (about playoffs), speaking it into existence.”
Ole Miss and Auburn will kick off at 6:00 p.m. (CT) Saturday in Auburn. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Nick Filipich was born and raised in Biloxi, MS. He is an Ole Miss senior majoring in Sports and Recreation Administration. A sports junkie with a great passion for all things Ole Miss, Nick played baseball and football in high school — which is where he discovered his love for sports. He is an avid Braves and Saints fan, and in his free time enjoys spending time with family, friends and his black lab, Dixie.