Cody Prewitt’s ‘Objectively Biased:’ Ole Miss defeats Georgia Tech and what the Rebels need to do to beat Alabama
OXFORD, Miss. — The Rebs are currently sitting at 3-0 and are showing potential to have a special season. But now, the real tests begin as Ole Miss heads to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama and start conference play.
Quarterback Jaxson Dart showed again this week just how much work he has done in the offseason to further his goal of becoming an elite quarterback and a leader capable of carrying the Rebels to greatness.
After two games where Ole Miss struggled to continue the rushing attack that led the nation a year ago, the team entered the Georgia Tech game needing to establish the ground game before getting to conference play. This is important in order to be respected as the two-dimensional offense we have seen in previous seasons.
After the unbelievable freshman season Quinshon Judkins had last year, defenses would be crazy to not build their game plan around stopping him. The question then becomes: how can we circumvent that without sacrificing productivity on the ground? Against the Yellow Jackets, Dart provided that solution as he recorded 100+ rushing yards before we even got to halftime. I am not necessarily surprised at his ability as much as I am excited to see his willingness to step up and put his body on the line to allow for the offense to be successful while the Rebs work out the kinks of getting a Heisman-caliber talent in Judkins back in his groove.
But Dart and Judkins are definitely not the only bright spots on head coach Lane Kiffin’s offense. In the first two games, we saw Tre Harris start to establish himself as a legitimate threat out wide and I expect that to continue once he returns from injury. He’s made eight catches this season and five of those have been for touchdowns.
In the meantime, the rest of the receiving corps is showing that this particular unit may be one of the most complete in recent history. Against Georgia Tech, it would have been easy for the offense to feel sorry for itself with Harris and tight end Caden Prieskorn out, and Zakhari Franklin not yet able to play, but Jordan Watkins and Dayton Wade both are showing up and making big time plays very consistently. I am excited to see what the Rebels are capable of offensively when they have everyone healthy and all areas of the offense firing on all cylinders.
Defensively, Ole Miss is in a similar position as the offense; there are moments when the group looks like the Landshark D — and then some moments where it is fairly obvious they are still getting used to playing together and doing so in a new defensive scheme.
The mentality of being an elite, non-compromising defense is definitely there. When a defense holds any offense to just a field goal, it is usually viewed as a win in and of itself — and it is a win. But a defense that still doesn’t want to accept giving up three points tells me this group has the mental framework in place to be exceptional.
Here, Zxavian Harris blocks the attempt and Daijahn Anthony recovers.
This sentiment holds true any time there is an opportunity for an opposing offense to put points on the board, and in our case still held true after Tech was able to move down the field just a couple of drives after the blocked field goal. On 4th and goal, Anthony not only displayed this unwillingness to allow the offense to score, but did so with a technically sound display of athleticism.
As soon as the ball snaps, Anthony’s eyes go to his key, he reads the inside release and closes the distance aiming at the receiver’s hips. When the ball is thrown, he uses his upfield arm to secure the tackle and uses his left arm to swipe at the ball, resulting in a solid pass break up to force a turnover on downs.
When defenses make plays like this from Deantre Prince, it serves as more than just keeping points off the board. It serves as a source of energy and confidence for the entire defense to feed off of. When we have energy and confidence, we play fast, and we look like the Landshark Defense of old.
Here’s Prince making the play in the backfield.
Then, here’s Zamari Walton with the hit on the Tech receiver on the out route on third and long.
As you can see, the Rebels have the playmakers and the mentality to be an elite defense but having that relentless mindset is only half the battle. As this group of guys gets more game-time experience together, they have to focus on being disciplined consistently.
The majority of the success Georgia Tech had on offense was due to Ole Miss’ mental errors and not tackling very well, which are both very fixable issues. With more experience will come familiarity and comfort, both as a group/unit and with the scheme the new coaches have implemented.
Fortunately, the defense has made the necessary stops thus far this season in order to win the games to get to 3-0 against some fairly solid non-conference opposition. They have had some time to look at the film and address the shortcomings going into SEC play.
But now, SEC play is here.
Cody’s keys to the game
With Bama week having arrived, I feel confident Ole Miss has the tools to come out of Tuscaloosa with a W. Here’s my objectively biased opinion on what needs to occur for the Rebs to get the victory.
On offense, we are going to need Judkins and the run game to threaten the Tide enough to make them respect the play actions, opening that door for Dart and the receivers.
On defense, Pete Golding’s crew has to start limiting the mental errors because SEC opponents will capitalize on those mistakes more times than not. As for the tackling, the defense has to play fast and trust that the coaches have given them the tools to excel fundamentally so when our opponents do have success, we don’t allow any additional yardage in a game of inches. The Rebels need to put together four quarters of disciplined, fundamentally-sound play to force a VERY young Bama QB room to actually beat us.
Coming out of Sylva Bay Academy, a small private school in Bay Springs, Mississippi, Cody Prewitt was one of 10 players from the 2011 Ole Miss Football signing class who received high school All-America honors. In 2012, Prewitt started every game and finished second on the team with 80 tackles. He helped lead Ole Miss to a 7-6 record and a bowl win over Pittsburgh.
In 2013, Cody played in every game with 11 starts and led the SEC and tied for seventh nationally with six interceptions and finished second on the team with 71 tackles, 13 passes defended, four tackles-for-loss, and two forced fumbles. For his play, he became the 55th first team All-America selection in school history and helped lead Ole Miss to an 8-5 record and a bowl win over Georgia Tech. Cody was named a first-team All-American by both the Associated Press and USA Today. He was named named to the All-SEC first team by the AP, ESPN.com, Sporting News, College Sports Madness, and by the SEC coaches.
In 2014, Cody continued his decorated career at Ole Miss. He became the first player to return to Ole Miss as a first team All-American since Patrick Willis did so in 2006. He played in 13 games in 2014, finishing with 64 tackles on the season, 44 of which were solo. He notched 3 INTs, and had a fumble return for a touchdown against A&M.
In 2014, Cody was named All-America second team (AP, SI.com, CBS Sports, Scout.com, Athlon) • All-SEC first team (consensus) • Jim Thorpe Award Semifinalist (2013 and 2014) • Midseason All-America and All-SEC • Preseason All-America and All-SEC • Week 7 National Defensive Player of the Week (after a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown at Texas A&M) • Helped Ole Miss rank top 15 nationally in total defense (321.2 ypg), opponent 3rd down conversion (31.1) and red zone defense (71.9)