Rebel Defensive Line Coach Terry Price doesn't have illusions of grandeur about his group at the midway point of spring training.
And he shouldn't.
He's trying to mold a completely new set of inside guys and he's maneuvering through spring without, arguably, his best two outside guys - Kentrell Lockett, rehabbing a knee, and Gerald Rivers, who injured his knee Monday and will not get much action the remainder of spring training.
But, with caution, Price is upbeat about what he's seen so far from his guys.
"The kids are working hard, giving good effort and chasing the ball," said Price. "We have some fresh faces, especially inside, and they are trying to pick up the system and adjust to the speed of the game, which is the biggest thing right now.
"So far, they've done what we have asked them to do and are working to get better."
Price's troops are working in the incentive system this spring, dealing with a very fluid - day-to-day in fact - depth chart.
"The depth chart is very fluid and set based on who did what the day before. Every day is a new day," he explained. "Competition is the best thing for these kids right now. We've got kids fighting and clawing for playing time and a position and that's a good thing."
Tuesday, for instance, redshirt freshmen Defensive Tackles Carlton Martin and Bryon Bennett, for that day at least, had replaced Justin Smith and Corey Gaines as the top DTs on the depth chart.
"They have caught my eye," said Price. "They are not the biggest guys out there, but they play hard, they are physical kids and they really have good lateral quickness.
"What they lack in size they make up for with movement and in attacking gaps. They are also tough young kids. They have a long, long, long way to go, but they are working hard and improving."
JUCO transfer DT Gilbert Pena is another inside player Price is keeping a close eye on.
"I like the way he practices. He's a big man. Things are starting to come together for him, it just takes time," Price stated. "Coming from JUCO to this level is a different speed and he's learning that speed. His technique is starting to improve. He's working hard at it and I like the kid. He'll get there. He's got good tools, it's just a matter of molding them into an SEC player."
At the end slots, Price has moved Jason Jones up to number one bandit opposite Wayne Dorsey on the strong side.
"When Rivers went down, we switched Jason to bandit and the last two days have probably been his best days. He's really done some good things," noted Price. "His technique is a lot better than it was last year and he's getting the job done. I am really pleased with the way he's stepped up, especially here lately."
Two young guys with high expectations are sophomore Defensive Ends Carlos Thompson and Delvin Jones.
"They are still learning and still working on their size and strength," said T.P. "They can help us in pass rush, but they are still getting pushed around a little bit against the run. We just have to keep working them on their run technique and help them get bigger and stronger.
"Cameron Whigham is big enough, strong enough and active enough, but he needs to keep working the little things that make a difference. He'll get there, but right now his technique needs a lot of work. When he uses the right technique, he makes plays. He just has to do it more often."
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