Lane Kiffin looks forward to GameDay in Oxford, knows Rebels will face an elite Aggie defense
OXFORD, Miss. — No. 12 Ole Miss hosts No. 11 A&M this Saturday evening at Vaught-Hemingway, and ESPN’s College GameDay will be in The Grove to kick things off that morning.
In his weekly press conference, Rebels’ head coach Lane Kiffin talked about the big game ahead.
“Excited this week for our program, being in a position where we’re playing a top-15 matchup game with College GameDay coming to town. That reflects on what these players have done throughout the season, to be at that point this late in the season.“
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin
“This is a really good team we’re playing with great players,” Kiffin said of Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies. “Arguably the best personnel team we’ll play all year, defensively it is. We’re going to have a lot of challenges,” the Rebels’ head coach explained.
Rebel offense bitten by the injury bug
Those challenges to which Kiffin refers are the unusually high number of players injured on the Rebels’ offensive side of the ball.
Kiffin reported his team had gone through practice last week with only two of the Rebels’ original 11 starters practicing who had started the season opener against Louisville.
Quarterback Matt Corral, himself hobbled for the last several weeks with ankle injuries, has been without starting wide receivers Jonathan Mingo, Dontario Drummond, and Braylon Sanders, though Sanders was able to play 23 snaps against Auburn. Starting tight end Chase Rogers is also out.
Ole Miss also lost starting right guard Ben Brown, the leader of the offensive line, for the season with a torn bicep. Guard Caleb Warren and center Orlando Umana have also been slowed down with injuries but are playing through them as best they can.
“You guys have seen our injury issues so that is what it is, and we need guys to continue to step up and make plays. It’s going to be a huge challenge because these guys have elite players.”
Lane Kiffin on facing A&M
Aggies will bring elite defense to the Vaught
The Aggie defense is indeed doing elite things on the field this year. Texas A&M, who has defeated both Auburn and Alabama this year, brings the No. 2-ranked scoring defense in the nation to Saturday’s game.
The Aggies are only allowing 14.67 points per game, second in the country to only Georgia.
Linebacker Aaron Hansford is the team leader in total tackles with 64, while senior Tyree Johnson has wreaked havoc in opposing backfields with eight sacks on the year. The Aggies have also forced at least one turnover in all seven wins this season.
Hansford was originally recruited to A&M as a member of the receiving corps and made the transition to the defensive side of the ball as a junior after battling a pair of season-ending injuries in 2016 and 2018. This season, Hansford has started eight of the team’s nine games, leading the Aggies in tackles on four occasions so far this season, most recently tallying nine takedowns in the win over No. 12 Auburn.
“It really looks like when you watch NFL defenses, where basically everyone is a really good player and looks right,” Coach Kiffin said Monday.
“A lot of times you got to play somebody, and you can tell right away or after a few series that this player shows up as a weak link or this player is short, or they have a small defensive tackle or something like that. Jimbo figured out from Coach Saban, find the best defensive players in the country and get them on your team and watch him be a really good head coach and that’s what these guys have. Really special players that are dominant.”
Lane Kiffin on the A&M defense
The veteran Aggie defensive line has been dominant all season. Graduate Micheal Clemons, seniors Jayden Peevy and Tyree Johnson, along with junior DeMarvin Leal lead a unit that, in addition to being ranked second in the country in scoring defense, is also third in the SEC in total defense (317.8 y/g).
"He has the size, speed, strength and collective football IQ to play ANYWHERE on the defensive line." pic.twitter.com/GgFwLSobz6
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) November 6, 2021
Ole Miss running back Jerrion Ealy knows the talent he’ll face in the Aggies’ defense. “They’re very good all around,” Ealy said. “They have a good front, play four down. They have four of the best guys in our conference,” Ealy noted.
That being said, ever the competitor, Ealy is confident in his offense’s abilities, too.
“I think we’re going to go out and get them. It’s going to be a task, but it’s one we’re capable of handling. It’s going to be a good game.“
Kickoff for Saturday’s matchup with the Aggies is set for 6 p.m. CT and the game will be televised on ESPN.
(Featured image: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)