Eagerly Waiting

D.T. Shackelford is searching for the middle ground, a way to feel as if he is still a part of the team without jeopardizing his rigorous rehabilitation process.

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He only wants to feel normal, as if nothing has changed. But everything has changed. Everything.

"I've just got to be patient and wait on the time to come," Shackelford, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during spring practices in April, said.

"I can't really rush it. I've just got to make sure when the time comes, I'm ready and my body's healthy and ready to roll."

Sure, he climbs the steps to Ole Miss' practice fields adjacent to the indoor practice facility each day. And he even wears his jersey, now No. 38, which was given to him as the recipient of the Chuck Mullins Award.

But he isn't allowed to join in the pre-practice jumping jacks. Or the up-downs. Or the wind sprints. Instead, when the time comes, Shackelford shifts to his new role as spectator and unofficial coach. But he's trying to take advantage of it.

D.T. Shackelford
Chuck Rounsaville

"Just be the biggest coach I can be. I know I can't contribute physically right now, but just being out there and just being able to encourage them guys, that means a lot," he said.

"Just because you're not on the field, doesn't mean you can't be effective. You can be a leader from the sidelines. That's a part of my craft I'm trying to work on, ‘cause a football player wants to be out there. But you really got to make sure from the sideline, you're still encouraging guys."

Sometimes he substitutes the jumping jacks for push-ups. Other times, he simply watches from a distance, all the while chiming in with a few encouraging words for a teammate who might need it. But he badly wants to be out there.

"You're still a part of a team. Even though you get injured, your guys got to know ‘OK, I can count on D.T. to encourage me if I mess up,' or do this or do that," Shackelford said. "I can go out there and do something. I can make myself valuable in some kind of way. Everybody out here can. That's something I try to do every day."

Shackelford said he is about four and half months out from returning, but he's doing good. He's taking care of his body with a healthy diet and weight training and plenty of underwater exercises on the submerged treadmill in the IPF.

A return this season is highly unlikely. Still, Shackelford won't rule out the possibility, no matter how unrealistic. Because he wants to be out there. Running. Jumping. Hitting. Tackling.

Not standing.

"It's all going to be predicated on psychologically where I'm at when I come back, and then I'll talk with the trainers and make an educated decision based on where they think I am in my process. We'll go from there," he said.

Singleton settling in:

Before the first question was asked, Tobias Singleton extended his hand to each media member waiting to speak with him after Ole Miss' first full-pad practice late Wednesday afternoon.

He didn't have to. Safe to say each ink-stained scribe there knew who he was. But he did, the latest good first impression of many good first impressions Singleton has left on his new team this week.

Tobias Singleton
Chuck Rounsaville

"It's hot. You know, we're grinding hard," he said. "But everybody out here's got to get better, so I'm just out here to get better. We're playing as a team so we can win as a team."

Singleton is already in the rotation at wide receiver. Not surprising, considering Singleton was heavily recruited out of Madison Central, holding a wealth of offers from such schools as Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi State.

He was rated a four-star recruit and the No. 22 wide receiver in the country by Scout.com.

"Probably rotating in," he said of his role on the team. "If I could get that starting position, then I'm coming. But I know it's going to be hard, ‘cause I've got juniors and seniors out here grinding, too. I'm going to have to come out and do my part.

"I can get better at some of the stuff I do. That's what I'm trying to do -- I'm trying to get better, like running routes, blocking. This is the SEC, so everything's coming fast. You've got to be on your Ps and Qs when you're out there practicing."

Making the transition easier, though, is the presence of fellow freshmen Nick Brassell and Donte Moncrief -- players Singleton befriended during the recruitment process.

"It's a great experience. Everything's fun with them guys. Nick and Donte, we joke and play. But when we're on the field, we're helping each other out," he said. "We're just out there looking out for each other so we can do the right thing."

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