What a Rush

Ole Miss needn't relive a miserable night in Columbia, S.C. almost a year ago. Decorated South Carolina defensive end Eric Norwood led the charge in a nightmarish upset, a 16-10 win over a Rebel team ranked No. 4 in the country.

Norwood, who stands as USC's career sack leader, was brilliant. He accounted for two of the Gamecocks' four sacks, causing fits for an inexperienced left tackle in then-sophomore Bradley Sowell.

All head coach Houston Nutt could do was watch helplessly from the sidelines. He had no answers for Norwood, virtually a one-man wrecking crew.

Little did he know he would soon find what he believes is his own Norwood in 2010, sophomore linebacker D.T. Shackelford.

"He gives relentless effort," Nutt said of Shackelford Wednesday. "Right now, he's our best pass rusher, along with Kentrell Lockett. He's a guy who I think will play in the middle and on the edge in the future. He's just solid – smart, attentive and relentless."

D.T. Shackelford

Shackelford said Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix approached him with the idea in the summer.

He was more than receptive to the idea, having played the position as a three-star prospect out of Decatur, Ala.

"That's something I've been doing ever since high school," he said. "I actually played more defensive end in high school than I did linebacker, so I'm not new to the position. Coach Nix and the team need me there. That's what I'll do."

Ole Miss (1-1, 0-0 SEC) has struggled to field a consistent pass rush through its first two games of the season.

Lockett, the lone returning veteran amongst the defensive ends, missed the Rebels' season opener against Jacksonville State. The unit visibly struggled in a 49-48 loss, recording two sacks.

Nix was more creative on a road trip to Tulane. He implemented a bevy of blitzing packages with his linebackers, and leaned on Shackelford off the edge opposite Lockett on passing downs. Ole Miss managed five sacks in a 27-13 win.

"If you know Ole Miss football, you know we've always had a good defensive line," Shackelford said. "Ever since Coach Nutt got here, we've always seen the defensive line make plays. We always want to keep that up. We've got a good interior and good defensive ends. Coach just wants us to have more pressure and we'll be applying that."

The Rebels meet Vanderbilt (0-2, 0-1) in their Southeastern Conference opener Saturday at 11:20 a.m. Odds are Shackelford, who has five tackles, one sack and one quarterback hurry on the year, will be splitting time between linebacker and defensive end.

D.T. Shackelford

Not that he's not excited about it. Shackelford has experience at all three linebacker positions. He welcomes the added responsibility.

"In one way, it makes me think (Coach Nix) wants to use me and that I'm reliable," he said. "I can play different positions and make my role more valuable, just more responsibility.

"I just feel delighted that he trusts me with that amount of responsibility. That's something he asked me to do, and I'll do it to my fullest ability."

Shackelford said there has been a renewed focus, from the coaches to the players, in practice this week.

"A whole different focus, from the coaches on down, and that's what it starts with," Shackelford said. "It starts with the head coach and trickles on down. First you see Coach Nutt out here all excited, and then you see Coach Nix and all the other coaches excited.

"We have no choice but to come out here and go hard for them, because we know they're busting their butts in the film room to give us the best opportunity. You've got to give it all out for them. We've got to do what we're supposed to do."


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