Big Help

Gilbert Pena, who comes to Ole Miss from New York after a junior college career at ASA College of Excellence, is expected to give the Rebels immediate help in the middle of the depleted defensive line. Read about him inside.

"We had to have mature, bigger bodies inside on our defensive line at defensive tackle. Gilbert Pena fits the bill. Gilbert is very big and wide at 336 pounds but the reports from the offseason are that he is light on his feet for a man that size. He has really wide shoulders and appears to be a guy who can be that anchor on the defensive line who can hold down some gaps. We are very proud that Gilbert was able to get in here for the spring semester and get to go through spring training. We are going to need him to hit the ground running and provide immediate help on Terry Price's DL." - Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt.

Sometimes, in recruiting, a player's size can be "stretched."

A kid advertised as 6-2, 220 will show up for his first day of practice and be closer to 6-0, 200 than what the recruiting numbers show.

It happens all the time.

Not so with hulking Gilbert Pena, who was listed at 6-4, 336 pounds on signing day.

He's actually that tall and actually bigger, around 330 at the moment.

To say he has a good frame to work with is an understatement, and work he is.

Pena, now at 336, is aiming to drop weight this offseason
Courtesy: Ben Garrett
"My goals for this semester are to get back in playing shape and to lose some weight," said Pena. "I had some time off between junior college and coming here and I got out of the groove of football.

"Right now I'm at 336 and I will focus on getting down little by little to see how I move and how my body functions at different weights."

Pena picked Ole Miss, all the way from New York, over Kansas State, Florida State and North Carolina. Why?

"Where do I start? How about the Southern hospitality?" he stated. "As soon as I came down here, it was real. You hear talk about it, but when i visited, I saw it was real. The coaching staff - Coach Nutt and Coach (Terry) Price - impressed me and my Mom. That gave Ole Miss an edge.

"Another attraction was the need Ole Miss has at DT. That definitely played a big part in my decision. Losing four DTs from last year means that position needs help and I believe I can be the help that is needed."

Pena was asked who he tries to model his play after or who he reminds himself of.

"I just play like Gilbert Pena - I get off the ball and make the tackle," he smiled. "I really don't compare myself to anyone else.

"I played nose tackle at ASA, but I'm not a two-gap guy like the NFL nose tackles. I can make plays from sideline to sideline and can penetrate."

Pena will be competing in spring for one of the four rotation spots at defensive tackle.

His chief competitors will be senior Justin Smith, sophomore Corey Gaines, redshirt freshmen Bryon Bennett and Carlton Martin, fellow JUCO signee Uriah Grant, who will be here in the summer, and freshman signee Woodrow Hamilton.

Who will emerge? Gilbert has definite designs on being one of the four.

OM Spirit Top Stories