OXFORD – The quest to rebuild the Ole Miss defensive line didn’t end on signing day.
In one of the Rebels’ biggest positions of need through the recruiting season for the Class of 2020 new coach Lane Kiffin added defensive tackle DeSanto Rollins and defensive end Demon Clowney, both in the early signing period.
Clowney enrolled in January and will go through spring drills.
Kiffin and his staff were unable to strengthen those numbers in the late period, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
“We’ve got some work to do there,” Kiffin said. “We didn’t add a lot, and we lost a lot of good players from last year.”
Gone from the 2019 roster are Benito Jones, Josiah Coatney and Austrian Robinson who combined for 105 tackles and 15 ½ tackles for loss, 10 of those TFLs by Jones.
The Rebels were close to signing four-star two-way lineman Marcus Henderson, but the Memphis product announced for Arkansas on Wednesday.
They went after but were not as close with four-stars McKinnley Jackson and Jayson Jones.
Kiffin said he refrained from signing defensive linemen just for the sake of numbers.
“Whenever you come into a new system you have to be careful of just adding players in spots that they really don’t know. We don’t know our own roster,” he said. “We haven’t worked with these kids, and it’s a different scheme.”
What the scheme will be under co-defensive coordinators DJ Durkin and Chris Partridge remains to be seen.
Michigan ran a 3-4 in 2015, Durkin’s season as a defensive coordinator.
In 2014, the last of Durkin’s three seasons as defensive coordinator at Florida, the base formation included three linebackers and a “Buck,” a hybrid defensive back.
For his two seasons as head coach at Maryland the Terrapins ran the same defense as the 2014 Florida team.
In one season in the 3-4 under Mike MacIntyre the Rebels last year finished eighth in the SEC in rushing defense at 138.5 yards per game allowed, an improvement of 74 spots nationally from No. 116 to No. 42.
Kiffin said he will continue to work to reshape the roster not only at the defensive line position. He’ll research unsigned high school players in addition to the transfer portal.
“What usually happens is after spring you see guys change positions, look at different roles and then we work our systems around the players we have instead of making the players work the system.”