Now-sophomore Ole Miss defensive tackle is looking to step up for solid group of Rebel defensive tackles

The game has slowed down for now-sophomore Ole Miss defensive tackle Ross Donelly.

What are you trying to improve on after going through a season? “I was trying to improve on getting off the ball, the little things when you come in, polishing up on the small things. It’s great that I’m getting some more snaps here to work on that.”


How do you feel like you’ve progressed this spring? “I feel like I’m making a little bit of progress. I feel liked I’ve progressed from where I came from last year, definitely.”


Do you think the defensive line can be as deep as last year? “I think that we could be just as deep. We have Breeland (Speaks), DJ (Jones), all those guys, but we’re really missing Robert (Nkemdiche) and Channing (Ward). But people are stepping up and making plays. I feel like we’re going to be as deep and as good.”


Redshirt pulled when Isaac Gross got hurt, were you surprised that you got to play as a true freshman? “I was a deer in the headlights; I was kind of surprised. I remember Herb (ert Moore) getting hurt then I.G. getting hurt, and I knew there was a possibility, so I started studying my plays more when that happened. But, yeah, I was kind of surprised when that happened.”


How was the action you got? “I think it was good. There’s nothing better than experience. I got experience to actually see what it’s like and be ready for this season.”


What did you learn most from that, what did you focus on? “Have to focus more, you have to play technique to the key. It’s college, it’s the next level so you have to do everything your coach says or you’re not going to look as good out there on the field.” 


How much had you looked at your plays, thinking you would redshirt, then having to switch gears? “I wanted to know everything about the defense. Like I said, (when) I got a binder, I was kind of intimidated by all the plays, all the hand signals. During fall camp, after practice I’d go home and right before I went to bed I’d sit down and go over the plays and different hand signals. The (graduate assistant), anytime I had a question I’d just go up and ask him and make sure that I was doing everything right, and I’d ask coach (Chris) Kiffin obviously.


How did that routine change when you realized you could play? “I started looking at them even more so that when I actually got a chance to go in I wouldn’t make a mistake and give them a reason to pull me out. That’s one thing I knew that I tried to let them have on me, that I didn’t know the playbook, so I tried my best to learn the playbook as best as I could.”


Was the bowl game with Robert out a little bit of a preview of what your role would be this year? “I would say so. I got a lot more reps during practice that week, because obviously we were a man down that week. I got a feel for it some more because I got more reps.”


What have you tried to do physically in terms of your body? “I’ve tried to run to the ball more, get in shape so I could get to the ball, run from sideline to sideline and pursue the football. That’s a big thing. I feel like I’m in much better shape pursuing the football.”


Have you tried to lose weight or gain weight? “I haven’t really tried to lose weight, but in the process of everything that was going on I lost weight, so that’s a plus. Originally when I was in high school I was at 320, I went to a training thing and before I came here, I got down to 315, and then the offseason during the summer I got down to 309, and that’s what I played at during the season. After this spring session here I got down to 301 and I even got down to 298 right before we left. I feel like I can run more, run faster at 298, get to the ball more. I feel like if I can stay between 305 and 298 that’ll be good.”


You mentioned a little bit about the deer in the headlights, was there a ‘wow’ moment where you thought ‘Wow, I’m a freshman in the SEC,” last season? “Yeah there was. I’d have to say the very first game against UT Martin, it was time for me to go out and I was kind of scared. After the first play, the first hit it felt a little better. I was still kind of nervous about going out there but that was a big moment for me.”


Has the game slowed down mentally since you got here? “Most definitely. During fall camp I remember the first snap from scrimmage when it was just in jerseys and it felt super fast, and I felt like I couldn’t even keep up. But like I said, as I got that experience and got more reps in practice I felt like slowed down a little bit for me mentally.”

How much do you read the playbook now? “I feel like I have the plays down now. I don’t feel like I need to read it, but I’m sure I’m going to go over them again before the season starts just to make sure.”

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