The Backers

Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt is anxious to see the development of the linebackers in spring training, and is a little concerned with numbers, but he's happy with the raw talent level of those available. Read about it inside.

The numbers aren't ideal - yet (there's help on the way this summer in the form of some signees) - but the look of the linebackers available for spring training has Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt showing some excitement.

"We've got a good base of linebackers to work with," said Nutt. "I like how they have worked hard in the offseason and have prepared themselves for spring training.

"Some of them don't have a lot of experience but we have a good nucleus to start with and we have some excellent signees we are anxious to get here."

The leaders of the pack, and the most experienced, are juniors D.T. Shackelford and Joel Kight. D.T. played quite a bit at DE last season and Kight was the starting Will LB all year.

"D.T. had a minor hamstring injury the last two early morning runs we had and could not participate, but he's one young man we never worry about. Great attitude, great work ethic and he's developed into one of our best vocal leaders," said Nutt. "Joel is also showing some leadership and has come to work every day, just like he did last year and the year before. He'll only get better. The experience he got last year will be invaluable."

The next two on the radar for Nutt were sophomores Mike Marry and Clarence Jackson.

"Mike is close to 250 and running like a deer with that weight. He's had an extremely productive offseason," Houston said. "Clarence had a little trouble last year, as everyone knows, but he has made the turn.

"Clarence has had a really good attitude - a yes sir and no sir attitude, he's 236 pounds and, frankly, he's the best natural athlete of our linebacker group without a doubt."

Nutt was also enthused with the offseason progress of RS freshman Ralph Williams and junior Rudy Wilson.

"Ralph worked hard in the offseason to increase his speed and he's around 235 now," Houston evaluated. "Rudy ran in the 4.5s in the 40 and has gotten bigger and sronger. He can help us somewhere.

"That's six guys there were are not afraid to put in a game. We need them to keep coming on strong, two or three of them are not finished products yet, but their offseason results have been what we wanted."

There's more. . .

"We moved (RS frosh) Sam Noblin from safety to outside linebacker. He and (sophomore) Will Martin hit the offseason hard and improved their bodies. I expect both of them to make an impact on special teams and grow from there," Nutt noted. "They are smart, they work hard and they are good athletes who will only get better as time passes and their effort continues."

And, if that group doesn't leave the kind of taste in the mouths of the coaches they desire, there is help on the way, as Nutt said.

Up Next: The D Backs.

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