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No. 1 transfer brings new strength to the defense

Ole Miss transfer Deontay Anderson has the chance to be another power hitter on the Cougar defense. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Sophomore safety Deontay Anderson, ESPN’s No. 1 safety in the 2016 recruiting class, announced on Dec. 28 that he would be transferring from Ole Miss to join the UH football team. Anderson is originally from the town of Manvel and chose the University of Houston because it can give him a “chance to win championships,” according to head coach Major Applewhite.

Anderson started all 12 games as a true freshman at Ole Miss in 2016, logging 32 tackles and an interception. When Anderson is finally able to step on the field, whether this season or next, he should be able to immediately provide a spark to a defense which finished 56th in total defense and a below average 93rd in passing defense last year.

He is currently appealing the NCAA in court to preserve his three remaining years of eligibility. Anderson’s argument is he was mislead by Ole Miss’ then coach Hugh Freeze about the Rebels’ NCAA infractions. Ole Miss has given themselves a postseason ban after Freeze was confirmed to have misused school property.

Anderson is currently a redshirt sophomore and will be forced to sit out a year if he loses his appeal. But whenever he starts playing, he will be able to spend a season learning from the older members of the secondary while also providing an on-field contribution before the proverbial torch is passed to him.

Anderson will also be able to join with sophomore game-wrecking force Ed Oliver, a top-5 prospect from the same recruiting class as Anderson and the reigning Outland Trophy winner. That will allow Applewhite and defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio more freedom to tailor their game plan from week to week in the most effective manner to shut down opposing offenses.

Applewhite could opt for a “Bill-Belichick style” defense, where Oliver provides pressure in the middle of the defensive line while simultaneously allowing Anderson to shadow the opposing teams’ No. 2 wide receivers. With the confidence that Anderson can be a shut-down corner, Applewhite can deploy the team’s second-best defensive back and a safety in double coverage on the opposing teams’ No. 1 wide receivers.

When that happens, the Cougars can devote more resources to stifling the run game, where the team was already a respectable 34th nationally in that category last year.

Even with a modest improvement in points surrendered per game (they gave up 23 points per game last season), the Cougars could see their win total climb back into double digits if they return to their Third Ward Defense mentality — the brand that dominated the defensive side of the ball from 2013-2016.

Anderson will be made available to the media after he has made a significant in-game contribution. The Cougars begin spring practice March 5 and kick off their regular season on Sept. 1.

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