Looking for Bigger and Better Things

Jamar Chaney has already seen his share of transition despite only having one season of experience in college football. The Florida native signed with Georgia following a standout high school career in the talent-rich Sunshine State. But academics stopped Chaney from enrolling at Georgia.

Yet when all his options were laid on the table, he found out Mississippi State and head coach Sylvester Croom was the place for him, Chaney quickly adapted to the new situation. Despite the change of plans, he was still a Bulldog and playing linebacker in the Southeastern Conference as a rookie.

"Well, I just got there and didn't know anybody at first," said Chaney. "But looking back, I would not change a thing in my path to Mississippi State. I love the guys here and I got to still play a lot as a freshman in the Southeastern Conference. And now I am looking for even bigger and better things this year."

Last year, Chaney showed glimpses of his ability, collecting 31 tackles and seeing action in all 11 games. But now that he has a taste, he wants more and expects more from himself.

Chaney used the spring drills to critique his skills as well as take notes from upperclassmen at his position.

"I thought the spring went pretty good and I learned a lot from Quinton Culberson," said Jamar Chaney. "When Culberson went out with a couple of injuries, he still helped me out with a lot of things. Plus, we knew our new linebackers coach, Coach Johnson, was going to stay on us pretty good.

"But basically, we just want to improve on last year's defense, especially myself. Last year, I was just thrown in there but now I want to make the big plays and hit harder and just be a better, all-around defensive player. That's always my goal each year."

Although it was his first college spring practice, the 6-foot-2 and 233-pound Chaney quickly spotted a major difference from other practice sessions. Guys knew where to be instead of having to ask. Assignment were already known and if one was missed, that certain player knew what he missed before even asking a coach.

"We have a lot of guys back on defense so there's not much learning left to do," said Chaney. "We all know what we have to do and there will be a lot of competition in the fall for positions. We haven't had that the past few years. Guys know they have to fight for their spot or somebody else could get it quickly. I can't wait for that type of competition in the fall, guys battling for spots."

With Culberson in the middle, Chaney and O'Neal are being counted on for their speed on the outside. Chaney loves the talent at starting linebacker for the Bulldogs this fall. But he also realizes there must be depth to compete for the entire season in the rugged SEC.

"They are sticking with me at 'Will' linebacker and it does''t matter to me if I'm inside or outside," said Chaney. "It seems we blitz more from the outside which is right up my ally. It's easier to read and I'm sure I will be playing here for awhile. It uses my speed well on the outside.

"Our linebackers should be the strength of the team. With Culberson, myself, Gabe O'Neal and then Carlton Rice backing up and Timmy Bailey and Jamon Hughes coming in, we could be two or three deep at linebacker. We got one of the best in Culberson and the rest of us aren't too bad either."

The upbeat attitude that was evident leaving spring practice has carried over to the summer, according to Chaney. Chaney and his defensive teammates had a much-improved showing in 2005 but they are not satisfied by any means.

Chaney believes the difference in being average and being above the rest is concentrating on the little things, which is Chaney's main attention this summer.

"We're working on being the number one defense in the SEC and one of best in the nation," said Chaney. "We were not as good as we could have been last year. That has everybody doing the extra things, putting in the extra work to get better and take that next step. We don't want any excuses after the South Carolina. We are doing all the things it takes to be successful, not overlooking any detail."

Chaney also enjoys the team unity on the defense, and the potential they have in the fall. That doesn't mean he isn't thinking about some individual goals in the back of his mind. He counts on being one of the best linebackers in the country, and as quickly as possible. That would only translate into the Bulldogs' defense being that much better in 2006.

"We are a team but you do set some goals for yourself," said Chaney. "After this year, I want to be one of the top five or so linebackers in the nation and thought of as the best in the SEC. But I've got to show it on the field and get myself ready for taking it to another level. Plus, if I am doing that then I'm only helping my team win and get better.

"We are focused on the big prize, playing in the SEC Championship game. We're not just looking at getting to a bowl game but the bigger picture. We won't be satisfied with just barely getting a bowl game. We want more and expect more."

Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at pjones@cdispatch.com.

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