Marry in the Middle

As the 2011 season opener with BYU locomotives its way toward the Ole Miss Rebels, Mike Marry, as expected, will start the campaign at the all-important middle linebacker spot.

Mike Marry has been the heir apparent to Jonathan Cornell, who started the past three season at middle linebacker for the Rebels, just about since the day he stepped on campus two years ago.

After greyshirting during the fall of 2009, then joining the team the spring of 2010, Marry was tutored by Cornell, who he calls Cally, to get ready for the upcoming season, starting with BYU this Saturday in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium at 3:45 p.m.

"I'm excited. I have worked hard to get to this point in my career," said the 6-2, 248-pound sophomore. "Cally helped teach me the ropes and now I'm ready to apply them in leading this defense."

Even though it comes as no surprise Marry will be the starting MLB against the Cougars, August camp has not been a walk through the park for him.

For nearly two weeks, he did not practice, or was limited in practice, due to a pulled hamstring, something that has afflicted him before in his career.

"I feel real good right now. I am taking treatment every day though as a precaution, so it won't happen again, but I am ready to go," the soft-spoken Marry stated. "When I came back from the hamstring, I had lost some conditioning, but I've caught up pretty well and I will continue to condition this week."

With his health issues under control - knock on wood, Marry now faces an even bigger challenge.

It's no secret several of the players, Marry included, are somewhat untested in collegiate battles.

Mike Marry
File Photo

Marry did play in 10 games last year and was the leading tackler in his one start when Cornell was injured, but his experience is limited, as well as all the defensive tackles directly in front of him, and the guys flanking him, Spur Aaron Garbutt and OLB Ralph Williams.

"For most of us, our roles this year are a lot bigger, but in a way, I like that," said Mike, who sports a Chris Warren-ish beard and short dreadlocks. "If we come out and do what we are supposed to do, being unproven, we will shock the world, so to speak.

"I see us having the potential to shock people. We work hard every day in practice, we do what the coaches tell us to do, we are real close and we try to do things perfectly - from breaking the huddle, to lining up to pursuing the ball."

Although they have little or no playing time under their belts, Marry has confidence in the players directly in front of him - DTs Uriah Grant, Justin Smith, Carlton Martin, Bryon Bennett and Gilbert Pena.

"I have faith in all of them. They work hard every day. They work hard on their technique, they come off the ball as hard and as fast as they can and they want to be good," he explained. "We all know we have something to prove. That's no secret, and we've given the effort to prove we have what it takes. Now, we just have to go out there and prove it on Saturdays, starting this Saturday."

Marry, as the middle linebacker, has the added responsibility of calling the defensive signals in the huddle relayed from the sidelines from the coaches. After that, he has to make sure everyone is lined up correctly based on the defensive play call.

"I'm comfortable doing those things. I like the responsibility. It keeps me tuned in and focused and I like being the guy who directs traffic," Mike noted. "If I'm not sharp and paying attention, it affects everyone, so it's just an added incentive to stay on top of things every play.

"Again, Cally helped me a lot with those things. He was so smart and knew everything there was to know about the defense and about his opponent. He taught me the tricks of the trade and he motivated me to be the best I can be. It's more than playing hard. It's about knowledge and getting things right. That's one of the best lessons he taught me."

Mike has goals for this year, but they are more team-oriented and team-driven than individual.

"I want to make sure everyone believes in the coaches, believes in themselves and play together as a unit," he closed. "If we play as one, we can accomplish a lot of good things. I know that without any doubt."

The first test for Mike Marry and the Rebel defense will be a formidable one.

The Cougars will test the Rebs' mental capacity to the max.

Mike the Mike is ready and willing to face things head on.

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