Proof Positive

Ole Miss Strength & Conditioning Coach Paul Jackson has now finished his first summer offseason program directing the Rebel football team. His thoughts? Part one in a series.

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If anyone understands the age old adage "Rome was not built in a day," it is Ole Miss Strength & Conditioning Coach Paul Jackson, who just completed his first full summer offseason program with the 2012 Rebel football team.

"As a team, I am really happy with the progress we made this summer, especially if we compare numbers and the conditioning of where we were in January when I took over," said the always-enthusiastic Jackson. "At the start of the summer, I was very concerned we could not get to where we are now - the kids accomplished more in the summer than I expected, so that's a good thing."

There is a caveat to Jackson's optimism, however.

"The team is not where we want it to be physically or mentally for the long haul - two, three years down the road," he continued. "Simply, we are not there, but we have made huge gains, bigger than I thought we'd make in terms of conditioning, strength attitude and giving great effort.

"I still want to see them give me that 'pop' every day, that all-out effort every rep every day, and some of them do, but not enough to suit me. That is still a work in progress. Again, they have made great strides in that area, but we are not where I want us to be yet."

This offseason, it hasn't been about lift numbers or times, per say. While those things have been charted and worked toward and improved on, Jackson has been focused more on doing a mental revamping of the squad.

"I was concerned about leadership, I was concerned about players coming in here and attacking the day," he continued. "In the past eight weeks, I have seen a different attitude and mental approach start to surface. Again, I want more, but I'm pleased with the progress in that direction."

Barry Brunetti
Bruce Newman

Off the top of his head, Jackson singled out a few players that have shown the leadership qualities he's looking for.

"We all know D.T. Shackelford is a born leader. He is rehabbing his knee and has continued along those lines of leading guys. He has a knack for getting them to do better, getting them to do more and getting them to give great effort," Paul stated. "I have also seen (LB) Mike Marry step up in a big way in terms of leadership.

"Mike is a guy the rest are listening to now. He's not out here yelling just to be yelling. They understand when he speaks, it's important and they respect what he says. That kind of leadership, those kinds of leaders, are important to this team with where the program is right now."

Others gained Jackson's praise from a leadership/work ethic angle as well.

"Both quarterbacks, Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti, have not only done a real good job addressing their individual needs, they are leading the others more often," he added. "They have taken on the role of pushing the other guys and getting more from them.

"Donte Moncrief has also stepped up in a leadership role. He's kind of a quiet kid, but he has come out some this summer and has dedicated himself to leading by example and by talking to those who need a nudge here and there. Charles Sawyer is another player who has done a tremendous job with his focus and leading by example."

When the summer session began back in early June, Jackson was hoping some leadership in the offensive line would develop and emerge, but he has not seen as much of that as he hoped.

"The conditioning program we have put those big guys through has been rough, but necessary," he commented. "It's been a case of them just trying to get through it individually. It's hard for leadership to emerge from that environment. While I haven't seen what I had hoped for from those guys in terms of leadership, I do think it will emerge more when it's time to go on the field and compete.

"Guys like Aaron Morris, who has great talent, and A.J. Hawkins, who also has a lot of tools, have done a good job preparing themselves, as has Evan Swindall and a couple of more. I think they will all step up more when the heat is on and start leading more."

Jackson thinks that is essential because unlike some Rebel followers, Paul believes the offensive line talent is underrated.

"I think we can be better up front on offense than some believe, but I think they are still searching for a leader. When a leader emerges, I think they will do their jobs."

In tomorrow's installment of the offseason evaluation by Jackson, Paul will discuss more individuals, how they have performed this summer and how they have prepared themselves for the rapidly-approaching 2012 season.

Stay tuned. . . .

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