All the Small Things

Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt, when asked of how his team could shift course following a 1-2 start to the season, stepped to the microphone inside the team meeting room of the indoor practice facility Monday and called on his seniors.

It wasn't totally unexpected. Head coaches almost always lean on their seniors, be it in the best of times or the worst of times.

Unfortunately, Ole Miss is leaning far closer to the latter. A young, inexperienced roster has struggled mightily through the season's opening weeks, recording losses to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt.

"It's that delicate mind psyche'. We're trying to take care of that starting with our seniors. That's who you have to go to," Nutt said.

One of those seniors, defensive end Kentrell Lockett, knows hard times all too well. He endured the tumultuous three-year tenure of Ed Orgeron. However, to Lockett, Ole Miss' current struggles aren't remotely comparable to those days.

No, these Rebels are merely beating themselves, according to one of Ole Miss' few team captains.

Kentrell Lockett

But he's confident they can turn a trying season around.

"It's just some mishaps on our behalf," he said. "Everything's going to turn around. I'm real confident everything's going to turn around. Everything's going to come together.

"And when it does, everything's going to be back up to par and we're going to be playing how we're used to playing and how our fans are used to seeing us play."

Lockett is fully aware of Nutt's challenge to the seniors. And he's heading the campaign.

Lockett, a respected voice in the locker room, is a firm believer in seniors taking ownership. They have to guide this team out of a deep, early-season hole.

"Just got to take (the challenge)," Lockett said. "Seniors are supposed to lead the team. Seniors are supposed to lead by example. If we walk right, if we step right, if we do what we need to do, everything else will fall into place. All of our young guys will do the same."

Football is really a simple game. Basically, the team that wins the turnover battle usually claims a win on the scoreboard. Protecting what Nutt terms a team's most prized possession, the football, is vital towards a successful Saturday.

"That has something to do with it," Lockett said of winning the turnover battle. "It's a statistic (Coach Nutt) shows us every day; that if you have three turnovers then, more than likely, you're not going to win the game. If we force more turnovers, we're probably going to win."

Kentrell Lockett

But Ole Miss hasn't protected the ball very well in 2010. Actually, the Rebels rank last in the conference with a -5 turnover margin. A struggling defense has recorded just one turnover through three games, a fumble recovery in a 27-13 win at Tulane.

"We're not necessarily taking advantage of our opportunities," Lockett said. "We've had chances. There've been some dropped balls, some interceptions that weren't caught, some balls on the ground we haven't recovered. When it's right there, we need to get it. We need to take advantage of those things."

But the Rebels haven't, and here they are. There's disappointment aplenty, from the coaches and players to the fans who fill Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Lockett remains positive. He has his reasons. He's following the lead of his head coach, who Lockett said has continued to provide the needed encouragement every day. Ole Miss has toiled through a miserable September. However, Nutt hasn't changed.

"He's been nothing but encouraging," he said. "He's let us know we're only a couple of plays away, a couple of mistakes away. There's going to be a game, a day when everything clicks. It's been real constructive criticism. He hasn't changed. He's been the same when we've won or lost. He's been the same ever since he's been here."

There's no magic formula, no quick-fix for a fluid depth chart ever-changing as the season rolls along. Lockett said the only thing he and his teammates can do is work harder. They're focused on what they can control, mostly the small things they haven't mastered.

It's all a part of the plan to right the ship. Just ask a senior.

"It all starts on having the best practice every day," Lockett said. "It starts off on the small things. If the small things are done perfect, then there's a good chance that those big things are going to be done perfect, too. I think that's something that can be contagious for the team.

"If we can get those little things perfect, that next bigger thing will be just as perfect."

OM Spirit Top Stories