Friday, February 14, 2014
Offseason spotlight: Ole Miss
By Edward Aschoff
Another player who missed most of the 2013 season, Ole Miss' spotlight subject could provide immediate help when it comes to wreaking havoc behind the line of scrimmage:
Spotlight: Defensive end C.J. Johnson, 6-3, 230 pounds, senior
2013 summary: Johnson played in just four games before having season-ending surgery on his right ankle. During those four games, Johnson recorded 12 tackles, including four for loss.
The skinny: While the Rebels improved to 8-5 during Hugh Freeze's second year in Oxford, what they really could have used throughout the season was a more disruptive pass rush. That was lacking after Johnson went down, and Ole Miss finished the season tied for 12th in the SEC with just 19 sacks -- a year removed from ranking second with 38. Johnson was never truly healthy in 2013 after breaking his right fibula in spring practice, but the hope is that with extra time to rest and surgery, Johnson will be able to enhance the Rebels' play up front. In 2012, he led Ole Miss with 6.5 sacks and could be even better this fall with Robert Nkemdiche requiring a double-team wherever he lines up. As the Rebels continue to improve on defense, they know that to take the next step in their progression, they have to get more aggressive up front. That's where Johnson could really lift this team. He can make the plays behind the line of scrimmage that weren't there in 2013 and free up others to make plays because teams will have to monitor him in pass-rush situations. The Rebels do have players coming back at defensive end, but Johnson is the key. He's the one who could really cause havoc when teams get into passing situations, which would take pressure off of Ole Miss' secondary.