Defense rules Ole Miss scrimmage

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

OXFORD, Miss. -- Dissecting a team based on its first full scrimmage of the preseason is tricky.

The offense is usually behind and the defense ahead. And, yes, that's exactly what happened Saturday with Ole Miss.

Here are a few thoughts on the Rebels after seeing them live:

  • The defensive line talent on this team is ridiculous. There were guys buried down the depth chart making plays all day long. Redshirt freshman end Gerald Rivers had three sacks, but it's going to be a struggle for him just to get on the field. "We go at least nine or 10 guys deep, and the good thing is that those nine or 10 could keep changing. That's how much competition we have," said junior end Kentrell Lockett, one of the starters.

  • The Rebels' depth up front defensively did take a hit Friday when sophomore tackle Justin Smith broke a bone in his foot. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said that Smith would be out six to eight weeks. Smith was the fifth tackle in the rotation.

  • Oh, and one more thing about the defensive line. Greg Hardy only played a handful of snaps, but he said it's the healthiest he's been since his sophomore season. Not that anybody at Ole Miss needs to be reminded, but he led the SEC with 10 sacks that season. "I'm not thinking about it. I'm just doing it," Hardy said. "It wasn't like that last season. I've got my first step back."

  • Quarterback Jevan Snead conceded that it was pretty ugly for the offense against the first-team defense. But the offense was limited in what it was allowed to run, Snead said.

  • There were a couple of big scoring plays. Senior running back Cordera Eason ripped through a huge hole and raced 75 yards for a touchdown. Eason looks a step faster than he did a year ago, and nobody really came close to running him down.

  • The other long scoring play was a 50-yard pass from backup Nathan Stanley to freshman Pat Patterson, who looks anything like a freshman in terms of his body and the way he goes and gets the football. He had a second 25-yard touchdown catch later in the scrimmage. Nutt told me earlier Saturday morning that Patterson would be a big part of the receiver rotation, and I see why.

  • Another freshman, Jesse Grandy, scored on a 25-yard reverse. Grandy reminds me of Dexter McCluster when McCluster first got here, although Grandy is a little bigger.