The personnel isn’t there yet for Ole Miss, but the 3-2-6 defense has potential to be special in the SEC.

Many people have publicly jeered the original Ole Miss defensive scheme that Lane Kiffen has cooked up this season in college football. It’s called the 3-2-6 defense, designed to operate against the spread. The biggest concern with the front, only playing five defenders, is that it cannot hold up against the run. Ole Miss’s defense was undoubtedly gashed this weekend against Alabama, traditionally among the best run offenses in the country.

The problem with Ole Miss isn’t the defensive schematics. This scheme, I believe, has immense upside even in the SEC. Not only can it perform well someday, but it incorporates many NFL-level concepts which will help propel players to the next level.

The question for the average fan: why is Ole Miss running this, and why isn’t it working? Why are my favorite announcers ragging on this defense all game?

I believe that Ole Miss doesn’t currently have the proper personnel to be running this scheme. This is designed more for the future of Rebels football.

The basic philosophy of the 3-2-6 defense

As I understand this, the basic philosophy of the 3-2-6 defense incorporates NFL-level expectations from the front five. As we discussed in Scouting 2 last month, many defenses want their front to collect double-team blocks as much as possible.

It appears that Ole Miss wants to use three defenders to engage five offensive linemen, which would require them to play two 1-tech defensive linemen. As we discussed in Scouting 2, the 1-tech’s goal is to contain two blockers to free gaps for linebackers to clean up. When that happens, the linebackers can play downhill and fast, and blow plays up in the backfield or around the line of scrimmage.

This lineup allows for so much versatility, too. Ole Miss has so much freedom to start mixing up their looks and shifting coverages post-snap. Once the coaching staff can establish the base packages of this defense and have their players adequately familiarized with the concepts, they can start getting aggressive. I think the upside of this scheme is that Ole Miss could end up looking like Clemson.

What does Ole Miss need to make this defense work?

Right now, the starting lineup for Ole Miss looks like this in the front five:

Position#PlayerHTWT
1-Tech94Quentin Bivens6’3″305 lbs
1-Tech96Isaiah Iton6’2″295 lbs
3-Tech33Cedrick Johnson6’3″255 lbs
On-LB0Lakia Henry 5’11”230 lbs
Off-LB7Sam Williams6’4′265 lbs
Rotation44Chance Campbell6’2″240 lbs

It’s not an ideal setup for Ole Miss, who currently has a loaded secondary. I believe that Ole Miss’s depth in their secondary certainly helped accelerate this process to switch to this front now.

Essentially, Ole Miss is trying to play this front with a couple of 3-tech defenders who can accelerate the pass rush. Sam Williams, a solid pass rusher in his own right, isn’t too much of a container or run defender. Because he is their best pass rusher, they’ll move him around the front and try to get him situational wins across the defensive line. Since Ole Miss doesn’t have the proper personnel upfront, it leaves their run defense as susceptible.

Because of these issues, I think Ole Miss feels like they can’t get aggressive yet. They’re content to sit back in coverage and try to force opposing quarterbacks to make mistakes. Unfortunately for them, last week they faced Bryce Young, who is well beyond his years in football knowledge.

Is it coming for Ole Miss?

Ole Miss is building this lineup. They have a colossal 1-tech coming in the 2022 class that is currently committed. Four-star defensive tackle Zxavian Harris from Madison, Mississippi, is 6’8″ and 335 lbs. Harris was 6A all-state in 2019 and is a tackling machine.

There are a couple of other prospects that Ole Miss is currently recruiting to fit into this scheme. Three-star defensive tackle Shone Washington from New Orleans, Louisiana, is 6’3″ and 300 lbs and can play 1-tech as well. Washington has an interest in playing for Georgia and LSU as well.

Ole Miss has been recruiting Giovanni Davis as well. Davis is 6’4″ and 280 lbs from South Pittsburgh, Tennessee, but is a 3-tech defender. He’s very interested in playing for Tennessee and is actively being recruited by Arkansas and Arizona State.

Lane Kiffin has it in the works at Ole Miss. If he can get his front five built up, this 3-2-6 defense will be tough to play against.

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By John Vogel

NFL Draft Analyst. Dad.

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