MEMPHIS, Tenn. – It might be the most important part of this Tigers team as the U of M gets set to take on Mississippi State in Saturday’s season opener.

With Mike Leach’s air raid offense in the hands of third-year starter Will Rogers down in Starkville, the Tigers secondary is sure to be tested early and often.

So should it be a bit concerning that there are a number of ‘ors’ listed on the Tigers two-deep depth chart.

Cornerback Greg Rubin is set to start along with this team’s defensive leader in decorated safety Quindell Johnson.

But the other two spots in the secondary are still up for grabs.

Returning starter Rodney Owens is battling Cordova high’s Joshua Hastings at the other safety spot while Cameron Smith and Sylvonta Oliver are competing to play opposite of Rubin at the other corner.

Ryan Silverfield doesn’t seem concerned.

Exactly the opposite.

“This is one of those, like, we’ve got confidence in a number of guys that they can play in our secondary. That’s great. That’s always a good problem to have,” said Tigers coach Ryan Silverfield.  “You never want to say we got 6000 or’s, right. Lining up. But I do think that’s one of those great things. Plus we know what kind of offense that Mississippi State is.”

For all the talk about the air raid, Mississippi State’s defense will also provide the Tigers offense… a huge test.

It’s a defense that’s loaded with experience.  On all three levels.

The Bulldogs return the team’s leaders is tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, quarterback hurries, interceptions and pass break ups and since his arrival in 2020, Zach Arnett’s defenses have finished top five in the SEC in total defense.

A defense that returns 10 starters from a season ago.

“They play together better.  They’ve logged some snaps with one another. I think they play together better. I think they play with more precision,” said Mississippi State coach Mike Leach.  “Some have gotten bigger and stronger, which I think is good. I think they’re better than they were last year but now they got to prove it. They’ve got to go out and play that way.”

“They’re big, aggressive, athletic, strong in the front,” said Tigers Offensive Coordinator Tim Cramsey.  “They got linebackers that are big that can play in the box and run sideline to sideline. They’re long in the secondary. They got good cover guys at corner.  They got safeties that like to come down and hit, but they’re long in the secondary. So they’re a very, very, very good defense.”