Alabama Football: Will Pete Golding’s Ole Miss Defense disappoint?

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports /

In his five seasons as the defensive coordinator for Alabama Football, Pete Golding often struggled to meet the towering expectations of the Bama fan base.

This standard was partially the result of the accomplishments of previous defensive coordinators such as Kirby Smart and Jeremy Pruitt, as well as those of Coach Saban himself. When Golding took over as the Bama DC in 2018, Crimson Tide fans demanded near-perfection on the defensive side of the ball.

Given that Alabama was Golding’s first Power-5 job, perhaps these lofty stipulations were unfair or unrealistic. However, they come with the job description, and most Bama fans would say that Pete Golding never met the standard on a consistent basis. In fact, in his lengthy stint at Alabama, Golding’s defenses never really improved from a statistical standpoint.

Alabama Football: Golding’s return to Tuscaloosa

This weekend, the spurned former DC will return to Bryant-Denny Stadium, this time as the visitor. He will have every opportunity to prove the entire fanbase wrong, and could potentially extinguish the Crimson Tide’s postseason aspirations before the calendar hits October in the process.

Meanwhile, Bama fans hope that their designation of Golding as a scapegoat will be validated in a convincing win for the home team. So what kind of unit will Golding bring into Bryant-Denny on Saturday afternoon?

Alabama Football vs Ole Miss defense

The Ole Miss defense was very average last season, and doesn’t appear to have improved significantly in year one under Pete Golding. Through three games, it is giving up about 350 yards per game (69th in FBS), but has done a decent job of limiting scoring opportunities for opponents (16.7 PPG allowed, 38th FBS).

Keep in mind that it has posted these numbers against fairly weak offensive competition. It has played Mercer, a Tulane team missing its starting quarterback, and a Georgia Tech offense that is still transitioning from its triple-option era.

Still, Ole Miss has a veteran defense with the type of twitchy pass rushers that can give the Alabama offensive tackles serious problems if Bama’s pass protection schemes have not been adjusted this week.

Edge Cedric Johnson (14.5 career sacks), JMU transfer edge Isaac Ukwu (18.5 career sacks), and defensive end Jared Ivey (13.5 career sacks) are probably licking their chops watching film of the Bama offensive line so far this season.

All three are seasoned veterans, so Kadyn Proctor is going to have to get the lead out of his shoes or get some help from a schematic standpoint on the blindside.

Senior linebacker Monty Montgomery and Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste have well over 300 career tackles between them, and true freshman Suntarine Perkins could factor in as well.

Perkins was heavily recruited by Alabama in the last cycle, and has the sideline-to-sideline athleticism to play the spy role on Jalen Milroe. Bama has had recent issues with hyper-athletic freshman linebackers when they are used correctly, such as LSU’s Harold Perkins and Texas’ Anthony Hill.

The Ole Miss secondary was pieced together primarily through the transfer portal. Junior safety Trey Washington leads the defense with 20 tackles this season. Miami (OH) transfer John Saunders Jr. and Liberty transfer Daijahn Anthony are the team leaders in pass breakups.

Next. Previewing Ole Miss' offense. dark

Collectively, this isn’t an elite unit, but it’s still an SEC defense with some really good athletes. This will be a good test for an Alabama offense that only has a one-game sample size against quality competition with starting QB Jalen Milroe in the lineup.