Living Up To An Image

It takes a lot of ingredients to make a good defense, but perhaps the most important is attitude. Senior All-American Free Safety Cody Prewitt embraces the Landshark mentality.

When asked what makes the Rebel defense - tops in the SEC in scoring defense through six games - as good as it is, he can think of a lot of reasons, but none is more critical to their success than their approach and attitude to playing defensive football.

"That's the spirit of our defense - the Landsharks. We try to live up to that persona," said Prewitt, fresh off another stellar performance against Texas A&M. "We run to the ball, we attack, we are relentless. That's just us.

"There is never a question in our minds about effort. Our coaches know and we know that we are always going to play passionate football. That's the only way we know."

Desire is certainly a must-have element to quality defense, but as Cody notes, there's more to it than that.

"Our coaches have put together a lot of guys who can run. We have speed on the field at all times. We get to the action in a hurry," he explained. "Also, I think we all have more wisdom and football knowledge.

"We are a mature defense now. We don't make as many mistakes. Everyone knows what they are supposed to do and we do it with speed and passion."

Cody said he doesn't think about the past much, but when asked, it is gratifying to see how far the Rebel defense has come in his four years.

"It's kind of crazy. We all talked about wanting to be a great program and a great defense, but to see it come around now with the way we are playing is really special to me. It means a lot to me," Prewitt reflected. "Now, we can't let go of it. We have to keep it going. We have to stay with it and remain prideful of where we are and determined to get even better. There is no time to rest on our accomplishments now. They will mean nothing if we don't finish what we started."

The Rebels currently lead the nation in interceptions with 12, of which Prewitt, who led the SEC last year with six picks, has two. He gives a lot of credit for that number to the defensive line.

"Our DL never gets tired and they apply pressure for sixty minutes to opposing quarterbacks. That disrupts their focus. When there isn't a good pocket, it messes up their reads, their timing, everything," he explained. "They are more likely to throw errant passes and we are more likely to have an opportunity to intercept those. In the run game, it's fun to play behind those guys. Last year, I had more tackles because I was needed in run defense more. This year, they don't need me as much in run support. That won't look as good on my stat sheet, but it will look better on the team's stat sheet and that is what I want, for our defense and our team to be successful.

"We've also got an experienced secondary. When our coaches give us a gameplan or a certain way to cover a certain receiver, we have the experience to grasp what they are telling us and execute the plan. Our goal all year has been to lead the nation in interceptions. Our biggest goal was to create turnovers. So far, we are on track. Our coaches put us in great position to make plays and we have taken advantage of that for the most part."

Like all of the Rebel defenders, Cody is not satisfied with the results to this point, at least not totally satisfied.

"I'd give us a B or a B+ so far. We know we can play better. I'd give us an A+ on effort," he noted. "I'm sure people on the outside would probably give us an A or A+, but we know we can improve and fix some little things that pop up.

"It might be a missed fit or taking a bad angle or losing blitz integrity or a missed assignment that nobody sees, but we know happened. We are not pinching ourselves over this early success because, frankly, we knew we could be good and we still know we can be better. We are still on a mission of improvement."

Prewitt said he didn't like Texas A&M scoring 20 points on the Rebel defense in the last outing and he despised that the Rebel 'D' gave up a score on the last play of the game.

"It was aggravating for us. We want to be the best defense in the nation. They shouldn't have scored 20 points on us. Don't get me wrong - they are good and they earned the points, but we feel we have something to prove after that showing," he assessed.

With the Rebels leading the Aggies 14-0, Prewitt broke the hearts of roughly 103,000 Aggie fans with an interception and 75-yard touchdown return in the second quarter.

"I had visions of being a tailback back at Sylva Bay Academy," he laughed, "but when I scored, I also remembered my high school coach telling me not to celebrate so I didn't. I wanted to though."

For Prewitt and the Rebel defense, there's time to be proud of the accomplishments thus far, but the celebration will have to wait.

As Cody said, there's unfinished business to attend to.

The Landsharks have more eating to do and they are hungry to feed.


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