Balancing Act

Senquez Golson worked with the first team defense at cornerback Saturday, the first practice of fall camp open to the media.

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Golson, lined up opposite senior Wesley Pendleton, is one of three cornerbacks Ole Miss used in its first-team grouping. The other was junior college transfer Dehendret Collins.

"He's athletic. He's an SEC athlete," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "You've got to have that type of speed. He didn't go through spring with us, so we're making a conscious effort to catch him up on what we're doing. Definitely think, athletically, he's what you're looking for."

Golson plays both football and baseball for Ole Miss. He missed all of spring practices due to baseball being in season. He has some catching up to do.

"I need to work on my footwork, my techniques," Golson said. "Being comfortable, that's the main key to me. If you didn't have the talent to play, you wouldn't be here. I just have to learn how to be comfortable and play my game. I learned that at the end of the season last year. Hopefully I can carry that confidence over into this season."

Golson, a former four-star prospect by way of Pascagoula, Miss., played in 12 games with four starts at cornerback last season. He was up and down, finishing the year with 16 total stops and an interception.

In baseball, he played in 22 games, with 15 starts in the outfield.

Senquez Golson
Bruce Newman

"High school's a lot easier. Playing two D-I sports, it's a lot harder," Golson said. "It's more time-demanding. I learned the system my freshman year. I learned the swing of things, how things work. This year should be a lot easier."

Golson said the toughest adjustment in his freshman year was the lack of time to prepare for the demands of each sport.

"I had the summer to get ready for the (football) season," Golson said. "When this season is over with, I have the month of January to get ready for baseball season.

"It's a be-prepared-to-play type thing rather than the average student-athlete playing one sport year round. I'm blessed to still be able to compete, considering the less time I have to get prepared for the season."

Pendleton, who started 10 of 12 games last season, said Golson has grown up both on and off the field. He trusts the younger Golson more, which he said is invaluable in the defensive backfield.

"This time this year compared to this time last year, I see a lot of change," Pendleton said. "He grew up a lot; less play, more work. We're ready to work. I trust him a lot. There's nothing like when you can trust somebody next to you on the field.

As for baseball, well, Golson isn't thinking much about it yet. He's keeping as far away from the batting cage as he can. His only focus, for now, is football.

"I probably won't touch the cage until October, November," he said. "I try to stick to one sport for as long as I can. Hopefully it'll work out a lot better this year than it did last year."

Mathers, Walton debut:

Ole Miss is searching for answers at running back.

Junior Jeff Scott, who rushed for a team-high 529 yards last season, leads the group. But before the team opened fall practices Friday, there was Scott and little else.

Enter freshmen I'tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, two vastly different running backs, but newcomers Ole Miss will likely call upon at some point in 2012.

"From the first two days, they've both looked well," running backs coach Derrick Nix said. "Of course, you don't just play the game of football in just shorts and a t-shirt. I'll be able to learn more when we put pads on. But they've been doing great so far."

Walton (left) and Mathers (right)
Chuck Rounsaville

Scott sees a lot of himself in Walton, of Memphis, Tenn., who was once rated a three-star prospect by

"I've been watching Jaylen since he was in high school," Scott said. "I've been watching his film. I was like ‘Coach, we've got to get him.' He's a lot like me -- same size, same weight. He's real shifty. I definitely think that's what we need."

Mathers, on the other hand, is a bigger, more complete back. Nix compared the former three-star prospect to former Ole Miss running back Brandon Bolden, now with the New England Patriots.

"If he can handle the physical part of the game, he's going to be kind of (a) back in the Brandon Bolden mold that we had before, being an every-down back," Nix said. "A guy that's fast enough to get on the edge, a guy that can run between the tackles, a guy that can pass protect for you. That's what I foresee coming, if he can handle the physicality of this league."

Nix added another player to his group in the form of converted quarterback Randall Mackey. Mackey, a senior, was a wide receiver in the spring. He's since been moved to running back, a move Nix fully endorses.

"He's catching on fast. He's an eager learner," Nix said. "He's the guy taking notes in the meetings, and of course he's got a lot of natural ability out here running the ball. He's got good hands. We're spoon feeding him a little bit. So far, so good. He's been looking great.

"The rest of the guys, working hard. A lot of retention from the spring. We're looking every day to turn that weakness we're going into the season with into a strength."

The additions of Mathers, Walton and Mackey can only help in lessening the load of Scott, a smaller type who Nix said would be better served in a time-share role rather than carrying the rushing load on his own.

"We kind of look at it as touches, whether it's catching balls out of the backfield or running it. If we can get him around 15 to 20 (touches) a game, I think we can survive. He's going to give us a big play, and we'll be able to preserve his body throughout the whole year."

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