Buckles says Reb OL ready to protect Spurlock

Things have changed some for the Ole Miss offense this year with Eli Manning gone from under center and fourth-year junior signal-caller Micheal Spurlock taking the controls.

Ole Miss senior offensive guard Doug Buckles says he's looking forward to protecting Spurlock when the Rebels open against Memphis on Sept. 4 in Oxford. He also says the fact that Spurlock will most likely run with the football more than Manning hasn't dramatically changed the offensive line's approach to this season, nor their preparation going into the fall from a conditioning standpoint.

"Each year is different," said the fifth-year veteran who has played in 37 games the past three seasons, starting all 26 the last two years and nine of 11 contests his redshirt freshman season. "In the summers each year we do more and more things to get ready for the season, it seems. This summer we ran more than last year, and last year we ran more than the year before that. We just went out there and conditioned and ran and got ready for the season, just like we do every summer."

Buckles said he knows Spurlock is a prepared quarterback as preseason drills begin.

"His confidence is high," said Buckles, who came to Ole Miss in 2000, the year prior to Spurlock's arrival in 2001. "He's been watching a lot of film and preparing over the summer, leading other guys and doing what it takes to be successful. I've always been a believer in Spurlock."

Buckles said that goes back even further than just their days in Oxford.

"I saw him throw the football 52 times in a high school game," said the Madison Central High alum. "I said right then, ‘This guy can play.' Then he came up here and he's always been a hard worker in the weight room and on the practice field. When we conditioned as a team and he was a freshman and sophomore, knowing he wasn't going to play, he still ran hard. He was a third-string quarterback and he still ran hard and worked hard. When you see a guy work like that to get better, right then and there his confidence builds and your confidence in him builds."

Buckles expounds even more on his respect for the Rebel signal-caller's dedication and drive to take advantage of the opportunity to finally become a starter.

"He's going to show up early and he's going to prepare," said Buckles, an All-SEC preseason selection at offensive line. "He's going to do the things he needs to do to be successful. He's definitely a believer in his body and his ability. He knows in the SEC that he's going to take some shots. When you've got five guys blocking six, you know one of them is going to come through. We want to cut down on that to be as few as possible. But he's definitely a great athlete."

Buckles said he's been there himself in a first-time starter's role, and he knows there will most likely be ups and downs for not only Spurlock but also for the offense.

"We all make mistakes," said Buckles, who joins Eric Oliver, Marcus Johnson, Rob Robertson, and Kerry Johnson as the Rebels' five permanent team captains for the 2004 season. "He will just put those behind him and move on. He's been in the program a while now. But he can't expect to be where Eli was when he left. Eli was a three-year starter. Micheal's got to come in and learn by doing it. You can draw it up on the board every day, but until you go out there and get corner blitzed or whatever, then that's when you get better. That's when you become a better player."

Buckles says the offensive line hopes to help make things easier for Spurlock.

"We're going to use our experience and help us run the ball effectively this year," he said. "We did that last year and ran the ball well at times. We're going to go out there and execute the gameplan and get it done."

****** Former Ole Miss placekicker Les Binkley was a visitor at the Rebels' first practice of the season Monday night. Binkley is back in his hometown of Memphis working these days. But he keeps up with the Rebels daily.

"I've got my tickets ordered and I'm ready for the season," said Binkley, who kicked for the Rebels during the 1999 and 2000 seasons after kicking at Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia.

The Evangelical Christian School alum visited for a while with placekicker Jonathan Nichols and punter Cody Ridgeway last night. Both were redshirting in their first seasons with the Rebels when Binkley was a senior.

Les' most famous kick came in the Independence Bowl of 1999 against the Oklahoma Sooners, a 40-yard game-winner in the Rebels' 27-25 victory. He also accounted for the Rebels' only points in a 3-0 win over Memphis to open that same season, the first regular season game of the David Cutcliffe era at Ole Miss which was played at the Liberty Bowl.

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