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The Other Guys: Ole Miss

Names to know for the visiting Rebels.

NCAA Football: Memphis at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

One of the more difficult opponents for the Tigers over the last three seasons has been the Ole Miss Rebels. While the results out of Oxford this year have been mixed, the Rebels are a team with dynamic playmakers on both sides of the ball.

Defensive End Marquis Haynes

The senior defensive linemen has been a terror over the last three seasons with 20.5 sacks since the start of the 2014 season, including a 10 sack performance in 2015.

What could cause problems

Haynes’ calling card is his speed off the edge. Like most dynamic ends, Haynes has the ability to explode off the line, dip his shoulder at contact, and blaze past the offensive lineman for the sack. Haynes will use the rip move when he blitzes off the edge and when he stunts to the inside, which can be particularly devastating against less mobile guards or centers. Below you Haynes rushes off the edge and easily passes the tackle to get into the backfield

Against the run, Haynes shows speed and smarts. His diagnostic skills are good and it’s rare to see him get out of position on fakes or misdirection. Haynes’ agility allows him to chase down runners with relative ease.

What can be exploited and how

Haynes has lots of speed, but strength is clearly lacking. It’s evident that once the offensive lineman locks onto Haynes, the battle is mostly over. This is particularly apparent on runs, where Haynes was unable to either remain stout or get off his block once engaged with the lineman. Additionally, Haynes only appears to have his one dip-and-rip to move, not much else.

Depending how Ole Miss deploys its defense on run downs, running at Haynes might not be an awful idea. When LSU is throwing the ball, whichever tackle is matched up against Haynes needs to prioritize getting the edge, securing the block and not allowing him to gain the outside.

Tight End Evan Engram

Engram has been a productive member of the Ole Miss offense for each of the last four seasons. He already holds the school record for receptions and receiving yards for a tight end. Engram is saving the best for last having already broken his career highs for single-season receiving yards and is one reception short of tying his single-season best in that category.

What could cause problems

Perhaps the biggest challenge in defending Engram relates to his versatility. While he doesn’t spend a ton of time lined up in a three-point stance, he will line up in the backfield, as a kind of wing, and in the slot. Additionally, the Ole Miss offense has Engram run a multitude of routes, from quicker underneath routes to longer developing posts and streak patterns, looking for different ways to get him the ball.

As a receiver, Engram presents some matchup problems for a defense. He is 6’3” and combined with a very good vertical gives him a large catch radius. Engram is smooth in space, gaining easy separation from most linebackers and defensive backs. With the ball in his hands Engram shows the toughness to run over defenders and the long speed to create big plays.

What can be exploited and how

Although listed as a tight end, Engram should be viewed primarily as a receiver. While he does a solid job blocking defensive backs, he isn’t making big blocks against linemen or linebackers. As a receiver, the only real knock appears to occasional focus drop and, perhaps, not doing a great job of making very contested catches.

Stopping Engram is going to be tough. Over the last four seasons, he hasn’t killed the Tigers (7 rec, 86 yards in three games) but Engram also wasn’t enjoying a career year like he is at the moment. Dave Aranda would be wise to consider keeping either Jamal Adams or Tre White on Engram throughout the game. Maybe Adams when Engram is in the backfield, White when Engram lines up in the slot. Even if Aranda isn’t as selective with who focuses on Engram, it will be critical for the LSU defense to identify him on every snap since he his position will likely differ depending on the formation.