Locked and Loaded

The wait was long and oftentimes frustrating, but senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett finally got the news he wanted to hear.

Lockett was in a near four-month holding pattern until he was finally granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA Thursday, paving the way for his return to the field come fall practices.

Limited to all of three games last season due to an irregular heartbeat and then a season-ending ACL tear against Fresno State, Lockett filed for a medical hardship waiver in early January. The successful waiver was also based on a shoulder injury that prevented Lockett from playing in 2006.

"I can finally go to sleep now," he said. "It's been since September (when he injured his knee). I didn't know what was going to happen. The uncertainty was killing me, man. I cried many a night. I've been crying all today. I'm happy y'all didn't see me crying. But I'm really excited about it."

Lockett was granted a sixth year of eligibility Thursday
Ben Garrett
The addition of Lockett is a huge boost for Ole Miss and head coach Houston Nutt. The Rebels are severely lacking in experience along their defensive line. Lockett has started 31 games in his career, including two seasons (2008, 2009) in which he didn't miss a game.

"That's good news," Nutt said. "Really good news. Get that year back. I know that's been a real burden on his mind and our mind. Now there's no question what he's going to be doing much harder and better, and that's rehabbing, school and getting ready."

Lockett learned of his clearance while rehabbing his right knee this afternoon. He had a missed call from Ole Miss Director of Compliance David Wells and also a text, which read for Lockett to contact Wells as soon as possible.

"That's the only time me and him are really talking is when it's about that," he said. "I started thinking bad then, because I'm like, OK, if it's good news, I'm pretty sure he would have text ‘I've got some good news.' It kind of scared me."

His initial attempt to contact Wells proved unsuccessful, so Lockett turned to his mother, Andrell, who eased his mind. When he finally reached Wells, he was asked to keep the news to himself.

"How I'm supposed to keep that a secret? We've been waiting for that for how long now? How am I going to keep it a secret?," he said.

Lockett had but six tackles last season. He missed the team's season opener but returned against Tulane. He posted three tackles, including a sack, in a win against the Green Wave. Lockett has 88 total tackles for his career, and ranked second on the team in tackles for loss (10.0) and sacks (5.0) as a junior.

He's still far from suiting up. Lockett was on crutches Thursday, though he expects to lose the crutches in about two weeks. His current rehab consists mostly of walking on a submerged treadmill in a pool at the team's indoor practice facility.

Lockett has started 31 games at defensive end over his career
Associated Press
"We're going to hit the ground running, and just take off from there," Lockett said. "I'm just anxious to get off of these (crutches) before I get to do anything else. When I get off them, I don't know if we're going to run. We might jog or see what we can do and go from there."

Ole Miss lost defensive tackles Jerrell Powe, Lamark Armour, Ted Laurent and Lawon Scott to graduation following a 4-8 season in 2010. Senior Wayne Dorsey and junior Gerald Rivers are currently listed as starters at defensive end.

But neither is as accomplished as Lockett, a pass-rushing specialist. Lockett helped the Ole Miss defense top the Southeastern Conference and rank 11th nationally in sacks in 2009. Even more, he is the team's unquestioned leader.

"I just think it's an, overall, just a character boost," Lockett said. "Everyone's gotta be accountable because I'm out there. I don't know why. I don't understand that. It's like that now. I can't be quiet. I can't stop."

"Experience, just the locker room presence, the confidence," Nutt said. "I'd hate to think of us not having him next year. That'd been unfair. I'm glad (the NCAA) made, to me, the right decision. It just makes us better."

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