CB - Rippon likes work ethic of cover guys

DB Coach Chris Rippon understands the 'problems' of changing coaches in a player's career. It's like starting all over again. The senior members of Ole Miss' secondary have had to do that four times, but Rippon is optimistic about their spring progress, despite the hardships involved.

(Chris Rippon is the secondary coach for the Rebels. He is assisted by Tony Hughes. Both work with all the secondary personnel, but for the purpose of this interview, Rippon will discuss the cornerbacks. You can read Hughes' comments about the safeties elsewhere in this issue.)

Secondary Coach Chris Rippon believes in continuity, something the secondary candidates at Ole Miss have not had.

"The senior secondary players on this team have had four different coaches. As their latest coach and for the players, that's a concern," Rippon began, "but these players have a tremendous work ethic and have done everything we have asked them to do. They are very, very competitive. From the standpoint of finishing every drill and competing for the football in coverages, they are a coach's dream.

"Because of that attitude, we will be able to reach our goals. They are committed to learning the new system, they are attentive in the meeting room and they have distinct DB personalities – they are extremely upbeat. You have to have that mentality to survive and thrive back there in no-man's land."

From a learning standpoint, both parties – coaches and players – have had a good spring.

"We have learned a lot about them and they have learned a lot about us and the system. Our depth chart is, as Coach (Ed) Orgeron says, etched in sand. We have had a different depth chart every day, which is good," he said. "We have had a very positive spring, a spring we can build on in August."

As is the case with most of our interviews with the position coaches, the depth chart provided here is "iffy," but it's the best the coaches can do at this stage of the process.

At left cornerback, senior Travis Johnson is the most established, but sophomore Nate Banks has also gotten a lot of snaps with the number one defense.

"What you love about Travis is his size and experience. The development of his man coverage skills has been excellent. He's working diligently at it, but he has to. He has to be extremely sound from a technical standpoint. He cannot take a play off, so to speak, because his foot speed and quickness will not give him much margin for error with the receivers he will be covering in this league. Travis has bought into everything we are teaching and is doing a good job in the transformation from how things used to be done to how they are currently being done. Travis has to be a leader for us and has shown that capability," Rip noted. "The thing you love about Nate is that he ran a 10.4 100 meter. That's legit speed. You can't reach speed. Nate has to work hard fundamentally and has to get better in the strength department. He has to play with more confidence and get better with his positioning. Right now, he depends a great deal on his speed. As he develops his skills, he will be able to take advantage of his speed better. He's had a good spring."

Senior Joshua Braithwaite is next in line at LCB.

"Josh is a very confident walkon. He's a great kid and does everything we ask him to do, from scout teams to special teams to being competitive in drills," Rippon noted. "He's a great kid and an asset to this program. I don't know how much, at this point, he will help in actual games, but we're glad to have him out there. He's valuable to us as a unit."

At right cornerback, returning starter Trumaine McBride, a junior, has had a spring worthy of a starter.

"His strengths are his intelligence and quickness. He has very good feet and he understands the position. He knows formations and knows what receivers are trying to do in a hurry. He studies stances and angles. He has a great work ethic," noted Rippon. "His size is a detriment when he faces the 6-4 receivers we will face, but he makes up for it with speed and technique. All he needs is fine-tuning of his techniques. He's been our most consistent guy this spring."

Redshirt freshman Dustin Mouzon and RS frosh Terrell Jackson are currently battling for the number two slot.

"Dustin is a physical player without being physically strong guy. He plays a lot bigger than he is. He has to work on his agility, but he's very competitive and will get all of that done. He needs to fill out a bit and get stronger, but his upside is good," Chris added. "Terrell was really struggling with the development of the techniques he needs to play and contribute, but the light came on about two-thirds through spring training. We need to build on his success. He's a little more physical than Nate and Dustin – he's buffed up. He has good speed, but he's not a burner, which we have to take into consideration. Like Dustin, I like his upside. He's young and eager and that goes a long way."

A footnote: To further emphasize the "etched in sand" philosophy of spring, Travis Johnson, Nate Banks, Dustin Mouzon and Terrell Jackson have all played with the number one defense at left corner. The only "constant" has been McBride.

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