Players look back, ahead

Corey Mills of Memphis made his first collegiate appearance in his first opportunity possible last Saturday night when Ole Miss met his hometown Tigers.

The outcome wasn't what he or his Rebel teammates hoped for, but the 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive end from Christian Brothers High School was pleased to be on the field and contributing.

"It took a little time to get used to things out there," said Mills, who wasn't credited statistically with any tackles but saw quite a bit of playing time throughout the season opener. "It was my first college game. I had a lot of fun out there and learned a lot from being out there. I was excited to play this quickly."

Mills said for the most part the things he saw in game one were the things he felt he had prepared for.

"I didn't really see any surprises," he said. "It was most of what I had worked on in practice."

Mills said losing is difficult to take, and he expects the Rebels to rebound.

"I think we'll bounce back well," the former high school All-American said. "I think we have a great team. I look for better things ahead."

Ole Miss defensive coordinator Chuck Driesbach said Mills had a good first outing.

"I was real pleased with Corey's first game," he said. "Corey probably played a few more plays than he thought he was going to play for us. His mental side of the game was outstanding. I don't think he had a single mental mistake. He showed the ability to be physical and be strong enough to play as a true freshman."

Rebel starting right cornerback Trumaine McBride said he's looking back on his season opening performance and learning from it.

"I had a couple of busts and some pass interference calls," said the sophomore who played in all 13 games as a true freshman last season. "I'm not going to let those bother me. I have to let them go. I just need to keep being physical and keep playing every snap. You are not going to always get the best calls, so you just have to shrug it off and keep playing.

"I basically know that being short I have to have great jumping ability and strength," said McBride, who was credited with five tackles against Memphis, three of them unassisted. "I've been working and focusing on getting stronger and getting my vertical up and being physical. I work on squatting to help my vertical and doing workouts that strengthen my legs to be able to jump higher with the taller guys I am facing."

McBride says he has been learning what it means to play his position at the college level for a year – and it continues.

"In high school it was mostly zone, no technique, just playing," he said. "I came here last year knowing I had to learn technique and get better back-peddling and pressing. You have to stay focused. You are often on an island by yourself and you have to get in your own zone and be ready to play every down. That's what it's all about playing corner."

Driesbach said McBride had a good game one of the 2004 season.

"I thought he played extremely well in the opener after having a great fall camp." Driesbach said. "He was the recipient of a couple of pass interference calls that are going to happen in a football game. But I really liked his aggressive style of play. He's strong, jumps well, and is a very bright young man."

Senior offensive left guard Doug Buckles said he knows the offense has to improve this weekend, and it starts with the offensive line.

"We've gotta get better," said the veteran fifth-year senior. "We just have to work this week in practice and do things better. We know what we're supposed to do. We have to play harder and execute better, starting at Alabama."

Buckles says the breakdowns weren't in any one area.

"It was a combination Saturday," he said. "Sometimes it was like we were thinking too much instead of just playing football. You can't do that. It won't work. You just have to bear down and get back to the basics and what we know to do."

Game one to game two improvement is said by many to be the most dramatic of the season. Buckles knows the offensive line, one of the Rebels' strengths coming into the season, needs to step up and play to its potential.

"We have to learn to play lower and play physical and to block better," he said. "We just have to do everything better. There were times we did things well. We saw that on film. But we know we weren't where we have to be. We have to just work and move on from here."

Buckles says playing an SEC game gives the Rebels even more incentive this week, knowing that the competition will be at an even higher level than the first week.

"It's Alabama," he said. "When you play Alabama, enough said. We've beaten them two out of three times lately. We know what it will take to beat them. We have to get ready and go do it."

Offensive coordinator coach John Latina says he believes his troops will be better Saturday.

"We just have to go execute what we know to do," he said. "We didn't play as well as we are capable of playing. We just weren't consistent. At times we ran the ball solid, but it wasn't consistent enough. At times we were physical but not all the time. We're working on that this week.

"Alabama's an impressive defense," he continued. "Their speed is impressive and they play hard. They have talent like all SEC teams. They play a lot of folks and they all seem to have good speed and quickness. They will be a big challenge for us. It's our first road game, and it's an SEC road game. We have to play better than we did last weekend."

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