OL Focus

"If you can't get up for this one (Alabama), you don't have a heartbeat." - Ole Miss Offensive Line Coach Mike Markuson talking about Saturday's matchup with the number two ranked Crimson Tide.

"Alabama is always fun to play - what a great bunch to test yourself against," said Ole Miss Offensive Line Coach Mike Markuson after practice this week. "They have great players, great coaches, great fans - it's a fun game to be a part of. If you can't get up for this one, you don't have a heartbeat.

"We know we have a heavy task facing us, but everyone will be ready. We are working hard. We need to polish some stuff up, get ready and go play hard for 3 1/2 hours. See what happens."

Markuson's group will be facing one of the best defensive fronts this side of the NFL, and he couldn't be more excited.

"Great competition brings out the best in most people," he continued. "We are going to put our best five out there and get after it."

It looks as if Markuson is going to change things up a bit from the last game. During the open week, sophomore Center Evan Swindall started getting more reps with the first team offense and is expected to get some action behind projected starter A.J. Hawkins. Also, Patrick Junen is projected to start at left guard, but Aaron Morris is battling him for that distinction this week in practice.

"I like the way they are competing and attacking the practice sessions to see who will play," said Mike. "We have not decided yet on a couple of players, but we're trying to get them all ready.

"Evan works hard and has a high intensity level. I feel good about him and A.J. Patrick started out the year at number one and lost his spot for a couple of weeks, but he has done much better in practice lately. Aaron keeps coming more and more each week. I like where we are with both of them."

The Rebel OL has shown improvement in the last two games, but Alabama presents a different challenge.

Patrick Junen
File Photo

"It's a different level now. We will be facing more athletic, more physical guys this week than we have this year. This is the best defensive front Coach (Nick) Saban has had at Alabama since he has been there. They are really good and they are stacked at every position. Coach Saban's defenses are will have a base they are confident in and they should be, but he's always going to throw in a different look or two," he continued. "We will have to be real physical and we will have to bring it for four quarters. We just have to be more consistent.

"We did much better at Fresno. We still made some mistakes, but that effort was a great improvement for us. It's all about moving forward and getting better."

Wednesday's practice was another physical affair with heavy concentration on special teams. It was the last contact day before Saturday's game.

The final three periods were conducted in a fairly heavy rain that swept through Oxford.

"We went through a lot of situations and some polish work, trying make sure we are ready for a big game," said Coach Houston Nutt.

Alabama's defense gets most of the ink and publicity, but their offense has been potent as well. Nutt said defending them comes back to basics.

"It will be all about being good tacklers and swarming the ball," he said. "Number 3 (Trent Richardson) and his cohorts have gashed everybody so far. They don't ask (QB) A.J. (McCarron) to do that much, but he takes care of the ball and has made the throws he needs to make to keep them going.

"We've got to maintain gap control and everybody gather around that football. Everyone is going to see a different speed, so we have to be ready."

Random Notes:

* As the game creeps closer and closer, it appears the Rebels will start two redshirt freshmen at the defensive tackle slots - Bryon Bennett, who has started the last two games, and Carlton Martin, who came out of spring as a number one but has not blossomed this fall until recently. "He's come on strong here in the last week or so," said DL Coach Terry Price. "He's going to get his shot."

* Senior Justin Smith has started the first five games this year, but a recent car wreck has him a little banged up right now. He's still practicing, but he has not worked his soreness out all the way.

* Backup Linebacker Rudy Wilson has missed the last few days with a concussion. He returned to practice Wednesday.

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