Grant readying for arrival

Uriah Grant is waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more.

He's in a holding pattern. A priority for Ole Miss in the recruiting class of 2011, Grant, rated a three-star defensive lineman by, signed with the Rebels in February, billed as a key addition to an otherwise young crop of defensive tackles.

Coaches usually prefer a junior college signee arrive in time for spring practices. But Ole Miss felt it could wait a few more months for Grant, who had 42 total tackles, including 17 for loss and six sacks, in his final year at Fullerton (Calif.) Community College.

"I talked to the coaches a lot going through spring practices, seeing how guys was doing, how the team was doing," he said. "I checked in on the (official school) website, checking on how guys was doing. I saw how they had the quarterback competition and everything like that."

Uriah Grant
File Photo
Mostly, though, he paid attention to day-to-day reports on the defensive line. He stayed in contact with Ole Miss defensive line coach Terry Price, the two keeping with a strong relationship built throughout Grant's recruitment. He soaked up all he could, doing his best to remain connected some 2,000 miles away.

Ole Miss is desperate for interior linemen. Its only upperclassmen at the position are senior Justin Smith and juniors Taurus Ward and Gilbert Pena. None of the three has starting experience. Pena, like Grant, is a junior college transfer.

"The defensive line, being young, there's a lot going on," Grant said. "Truthfully, I feel the d-line's going to be more productive than last year, because the d-line's going to be more athletic and be able to go longer on drives. Like me-wise, I can go probably more longer than a guy that's 20 pounds heavier. I feel we're going to be more athletic."

Grant is on track to wrap up his final semester at Fullerton next month, and plans to arrive in Oxford May 29. Ole Miss sent Grant a workout regimen to follow this spring. He said he has gained 10-15 pounds of muscle, and is now up to 298 with just 12 percent body fat.

"This is the best I've felt. This is the strongest I've ever felt," he said. "I'm benching right now about 450, hang-cleaning about 380. My whole body just feels good. I'm stretching, I'm more flexible than ever. It's good."

The Rebels were just 4-8 overall and 1-7 in Southeastern Conference play last season, this after back-to-back nine-win seasons. Their defense was shredded, finishing near the bottom of the conference in many statistical categories.

To make matters worse, valuable linebacker and team leader D.T. Shackelford tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in spring practices. Grant, of course, heard the news of Shackelford's injury.

And, unsurprisingly, he reacted with shock and disappointment.

Uriah Grant
File Photo
"That was really tough, and it was shocking, because, you know, I kept up with the updates and everything," Grant said. "(Ole Miss head) Coach (Houston) Nutt said he was going so good. They said he was the leader of the defense. Losing him is a big, big blow.

"We really needed him this year, not only his style of play, but his leadership off the field. It's a big blow, but the younger guys coming in like C.J. Johnson and Serderius Bryant, those guys got to come in, step up and work hard."

Grant hopes to help fill the leadership void left by the loss of Shackelford.

"Me coming in right away, I feel like I'm an instant leader," he said. "Me coming in, I'm actually going to help the younger guys get better. I talked to my coach (Terry Price), cause I've been hearing what people have been saying about the team and saying about the d-line, and I told him when I come in, I'm going to instantly be an impact player.

"I'm coming in, I'm working hard in the classroom, on the field. I told him, ‘Coach, you can rely on me,' cause I'm going to give my all every game, every practice."

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