On the Rise

Bryon Bennett needed all of one week to make his move.

Bennett, a 6-foot-2, 280-pound defensive tackle, was running with the first-team defense Monday, as Ole Miss opened its second week of spring practices in full pads inside the team's indoor practice facility. Bennett overtook sophomore Corey Gaines alongside Justin Smith in the starting lineup.

"Coach said players make the depth chart. I guess I played pretty good Saturday," Bennett said. "I felt good going out first, had to make sure no mistakes and play well."

Saturday was the first game-like scrimmage of spring practices, when the defense, Bennett included, was praised by head coach Houston Nutt for its rather dominant performance. Bennett -- redshirted last season -- apparently played well enough for his coaches to take notice.

"I love the taste of being No. 1. I love to start. I love to set the tone of the game. It feels good," Bennett said.

Bennett is often linked with fellow freshman and defensive tackle Carlton Martin. The two were teammates at Madison Central in Madison, Miss., and were highly-recruited players in the recruiting class of 2010.

Bennett and Carlton Martin (pictured here) are being called upon to contribute
Chuck Rounsaville
Now they're working towards starting together again, except in college. Ole Miss graduated four defensive tackles: Jerrell Powe, Ted Laurent, Lawon Scott and Lamark Armour. Bennett and Martin are being pressed into action, whether they're ready to play or not.

"Carlton Martin and Bryon Bennett are two guys that are very mature for redshirt freshmen, and they have to be. They keep coming," Nutt said.

Bennett, who reported at 285 pounds but is down to 275, said the year off was hard at first, but ultimately good for him. He has a better understanding of the playbook and, in turn, is playing faster and not thinking as much.

"Definitely the playbook -- how guys play, how they look on the field. Getting mental reps, really, with what the coaches have been teaching me," Bennett said of what he learned last season. "I'd say it was (hard at first). I wasn't sure at first what type of defense we were playing, alignment, what was my assignment. I picked them up and took it from there."

Hall working at guard:

Matt Hall has waited three years for this.

He transferred to Ole Miss from Arkansas in January of 2010. He had played in 11 games the previous season after a transfer year in 2008, but Ole Miss offered a better opportunity -- possibly a starting job. Finally eligible, he's getting his chance.

Though naturally a tackle, Hall and his 6-foot-10, 340-pound frame is working mostly at guard this spring. Hall said it was an idea bred in a meeting with his position coach, Mike Markuson. Markuson "wants someone big in there," Hall said.

"I think it's a very good possibility in the near future for me to play there," Hall said. "Every day you just get more comfortable with it. Just keep working."

OL Matt Hall
Chuck Rounsaville
Hall had to sit out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. He used the off year to get stronger, adding 20 pounds of muscle. Better yet, he earned valuable snaps against a deep, experienced Ole Miss defensive line as a member of the scout team.

"It was tough coming here knowing you're scout team and you're going to be in the weight room every day before practice. That was tough. I just sat there and thought about how much better it was going to make me, and it has," Hall said. "It's made me so much better since last year. I've gotten so much stronger. It really helps having that year of being on scout team and working against the defense."

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