Veteran FS says the ball is in his court now

Ole Miss FS C.J. Hampton has imposed a new level of expectations on himself because in 2016 he should be, finally, one of the leaders in the safety meeting room.

C.J. Hampton played "second fiddle" to Cody Prewitt in 2014 and then Trae Elston in 2016 at free safety.

And while he got a lot of experience the last two seasons, he has never been 'The Man' during his Ole Miss career.

Guess what? There are not guarantees he's going to be in 2016. The competition is fierce with a couple of young safety challengers and he knows he has to pick up his game from previous levels. Consequently, he has imposed some strict guidelines of what he believes he can and must do moving forward.

"It is now my opportunity to get it done," stated C.J. at the end of spring training. "I have to step up and make the plays expected of that position, eliminate all mistakes and play perfectly. The ball is in my court. I have to get it done and now is the time.

"This should be my year. I have to keep my nose clean, take care of my business off the field and just play ball. It's my time. I had to grow up and I made some mistakes, but I'm ready to get it right now."

There's not a shortage for safety candidates, but Hampton is, besides rehabbing Tony Conner, the "old man" in the safety room now.

"They have all impressed me," he continued. "Myles (Hartsfield), C.J. (Moore), A.J. (Moore), Montrell Custis, Greg (Eisworth) - they can all play. They are all ballers. They push me and I push them. We are going to keep pushing each other, keep developing and see how this thing plays out. We think we should have a good year at Rover, Husky and free. I think we are going to have good depth.

"Time has flown by quickly and it's time for me to step up as a player and a leader to these younger guys."

C.J. has not been totally happy with his play to this point in his career, but nobody really is - ever, when they are competitive.

"I watch a lot of film and there were more plays I could have made. I think any player would say that, but it just shows you that you have to be more focused, more tuned in to your assignments and more prepared to get the job done and those are my goals for 2016," Hampton stated. "The plays that should have been made I know I can make in the future if put in the same situations."

C.J., trying to make some changes from top to bottom in his quest to improve, switched from jersey number 3 to 4 this spring.

"That (4) was my number in high school. That number is a big deal where I am from and I wanted it back. It makes me feel good," he explained.

The Rebel safeties need a leader, a guy to hold the reins and lead the room.

Hampton needs to be that guy. Is he up to the task? So far, so good, based on spring training, but the journey continues. . . .

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