'MSU game means a lot'

Redshirt freshman Defensive Tackle Bryon Bennett has several starts under his belt now and says he's feeling his way around in the SEC trenches better. He's like to finish off this year by spoiling the season of the Rebs' next opponent - MSU - in the Egg Bowl Saturday.

Redshirt freshman Defensive Tackle Bryon Bennett has eight starts under his belt as an Ole Miss Rebel.

That's not a lot, but it's been enough for him to get his feet wet, learn the lay of the land and let him know he belongs on this level.

"I think I have progressed a lot. It takes a while to get a feel for the game, understand your role, figure out where you fit in the scheme and so on," said Bennett. "I can and will play better. I can be more consistent, but overall, I've done OK, I think.

"So far, I've just been filling gaps and doing my assignments, but I think in the future I can be a force to be reckoned with and have more presence."

Bryon has been facing a lot of upperclassmen thus far, guys who are a couple of years ahead of him in physical maturity and experience, but he knows his day will come.

"There are times when I am getting blocked when I say to myself, 'you wait, I'm going to be whipping you in the next year or two,' but I'm still working toward that," he laughed. "I'm playing hard and learning from the veterans. I know my day is coming."

Bennett believes there are areas he can improve and improve immensely.

"I've got to become a better pass rusher.That's my number one goal in the offseason - getting better with my pass rushing techniques," he assessed.

He says the Egg Bowl this Saturday is a big game for Ole Miss.

"This is about bragging rights for a whole year," he continued. "We can keep them from going to a bowl and we haven't beaten them the last two years. We don't want it to be three in a row - I'm tired of having that hung over our heads.

Bryon Bennett
File Photo

"Being from Mississippi, I know what it means and anyone who has been here for more than a year knows the importance. It's also important to get a good jump on next year."

Bennett has respect for the Bulldogs' offensive line.

"They are sound and they can get nasty," he explained. "We know we are going to have to bring it too. We have to match them when they start trying to pound it."

Bryon is excited about the future of the Ole Miss defensive line with young guys like Carlton Martin, Woodrow Hamilton, Carlos Thompson, and Cameron Whigham waiting in the wings for the kind of shot he has gotten in 2011.

"We all just need to play. We are going to be fine. We are young and are going to make mistakes, but we will get it down. I know we have the ability," he added.

Coach Houston Nutt is headed toward his last rodeo as the Rebel mentor. Tuesday's practice was the first step toward the end.

"We got some good work done. We went good against good a lot and worked some special teams situations," Nutt said of the 2-hour workout, earlier than normal because of school being out this week for Thanksgiving. "We are getting our gameplan in and feel good about it.

"We've got to put some extra time in on the read option game that MSU uses - it always puts a little extra pressure on you. We have to play assignment football and get it right for that part of their attack."

Nutt said he can see a little extra spring in his team's step due to the rivalry aspect of the Egg Bowl.

"The kids have a tremendous attitude. D.T. Shackelford said some good things today to the team. They have an extra bounce in their step," he said.

There has been speculation that Nutt may be the next head coach at Memphis.

"Wow. I have had not contact whatsoever," he responded. "They have a head coach. It's all a rumor. It's unfair to Coach (Larry) Porter right now. Everyone needs to respect that and let me concentrate on my final game here.

"I want a little time after this game to disconnect. I want to reflect and to see what else is out there after a little time off. I am in no hurry at all to make my next move."

Practices this week are completely closed, so all the media will get are post-practice interviews Tuesday and Wednesday. Hence, no random notes.

Safety Charles Sawyer, a Conerly Trophy finalist, was one player we had access to.

"I'm not from here, but the importance of this rivalry has sunk in. I didn't know anything about it my first year, but I realize it's a big thing now," said Sawyer. "We have to represent Ole Miss with pride.

Charles Sawyer
File Photo

"I can feel a different vibe this week, especially from players who come from Mississippi. It's more personal than just another game."

MSU relies heavily on the run game, an area the Rebels have not done well in on defense.

"We have been inconsistent and have missed too many assignments and tackles. When we do what the coaches tell us to do, we are really good, but we don't do it often enough," Sawyer explained. "The coaches are putting us in great position, but we are not executing. We are very young and make a lot of mistakes and that has been the theme all year. This defense has a good future - we won't be young forever."

"Mississippi State has a good running game. Vic Ballard is a hard-running back, a typical SEC back. We've played better backs, but he's good. If we play the way we are coached, we will be fine."

Sawyer is honored to be a Conerly finalist.

"I'm very excited to be a part of that at a young age," said the Rebel sophomore. "Hopefully, I can bring the trophy home."

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