After adjusting to the speed of the game last year as a first-time starter, junior OLB Joel Kight is ready to play faster this time around. Read about it inside.

Speed is not exclusively measured with a stop watch, even though that is one major gauge.

Just ask junior Ole Miss Outside Linebacker Joel Kight, who started last year as a true sophomore and is expected to be a starter again in 2011 with a different, and younger, linebacking corps.

Thinking faster, reacting faster and moving faster are all vital to Kight, as he will explain, but first things first.

Kight missed spring training due to having an old knee injury "cleaned up." He's healthy now.

"I'm good. The knee is 100% and I'm ready to rock and roll," said the soft spoken Kight. "I could play right now."

Healthy and ready to get after it, Kight is not intent on improving his game. This is where the "faster" comes in.

"Being shorter than a lot of linebackers, I play with a chip on my shoulder. I'm not trying to prove anyone wrong, but I'm going to play hard every down," he noted. "For me, it's all about reading my keys faster, reacting faster, knowing everything perfectly.

"I just want to play faster and make the plays that are there to be made. It's all about seeing things faster, reading things faster, reacting faster and then attacking faster - being a football player and not being mired down in thinking."

When fellow junior LB D.T. Shackelford went down with a major knee injury in spring, Kight knew instinctively he had to vocalize and lead more.

"D.T. is obviously a leader and there were times with him out there that I just stepped back and took care of my business and let him lead," Joel explained. "With him out, I knew I had to exert myself more and become more of a leader on the field and be more vocal.

Joel Kight
Chuck Rounsaville
"I have to let the guys know when things get tough you just have to push through it and keep going."

Leadership will be a key for Joel since he will be the only returning starter of the linebackers and there is a relatively new defensive line in front of him.

But he's confident the "new guys" can get it done.

"C.J. (Johnson) and Keith (Lewis) are new here, but I have seen in the short time they have been here that they want to learn and they listen," Kight said. "The hardest part for me was learning my assignments while trying to play fast. It's a process, but we will be there to help the guys who haven't been through it before on this level."

Kight has faith in the defensive front as well, even though he acknowledges it will be "different."

"We'll have to get used to different guys up front, but that's just part of it on the college level. Players come and go and you have to adjust and move ahead," said Joel. "I think we have some studs out there - Carlton Martin, Bryon Bennett are two and I have heard good things about Uriah Grant so far. We have to get it done."

Joel did not like the losing of 2010 one iota, but he's philosophical about the hard times for the Rebels, who finished 4-8 on the season.

"Nobody likes to lose, but everything happens for a reason and now I feel the guys who went through that are mentally stronger," he explained. "We had some unfortunate events take place and you can't go back and change that, but you can learn from it and do things differently.

"The camaraderie on the team is better. We all hang out together. We are all in this together, that may be the biggest difference I am seeing in the team. That will pay off."

Most likely, Joel Kight will line up next to Mike Marry or Ralph Williams at MLB and Johnson or Rudy Wilson at the other OLB slot.

Although he's just now entering his third year at Ole Miss, he will now be the old head of the linebackers.

He says he's ready for the challenge.

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