OXFORD • A shoutout from the head coach was nice, but Tavario Standifer is just glad to be healthy again.
Ole Miss coach Matt Luke praised Standifer, the former Tupelo High School standout, last Monday for getting off to a fast start in his transition to SEC football.
Luke and defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre have been impressed enough that Standifer has been getting reps with the second-team punt unit.
“He’s flashed a couple of times when he’s had his opportunities,” Luke said.
One of nine true freshmen trying to find their way on a defense with eight returning starters and junior college transfers filling in at several spots, Standifer has a chance to get on the field.
“On special teams, yeah, but game-wise, I’ve got to learn the defense more,” he said.
Learning the defense has become easier for Standifer this month since he’s returned to full strength.
As a high school junior, Standifer was often around the ball in the Golden Wave secondary, finishing with seven passes defended and four interceptions.
Then came the spring before his senior season when Standifer injured his Achilles. He missed his entire senior season, and though he enrolled early at Ole Miss, he wasn’t able to do much in the Rebels’ spring drills beyond watch and listen.
Though he was a high school safety Standifer was projected as an inside linebacker in the 4-2-5. When Mike MacIntyre was hired as the Rebels’ new defensive coordinator he immediately moved Standifer to safety.
All Ole Miss players have learned a new scheme this off-season as MacIntyre has installed a 3-4.
Getting back on the field has helped Standifer become more comfortable with the transition.
“When I first got here it was mostly just rehab, watching the older players and trying to learn the defense. It was kind of hard doing it mentally and just watching. Now that I’m actually on the field it’s easier.”