Stallings' goal is 'healthy season'

All the stars are aligned for Ole Miss senior OL Tre' Stallings to have a banner final season. The talent, experience and preparation are all taken care of. All that is left, said Tre', is to stay completely healthy for a full year, something he hasn't accomplished in his career thus far.

Tre' Stallings is a tough guy.

Despite nagging injuries the prior three seasons - mostly lower leg/foot ailments - he has started all 37 games the Rebels have had since he was named a starter his redshirt freshman year of 2002.

"My goal for this year is to stay healthy," the normally-reserved Stallings said. "I just want to see what it would be like - and how good I can be - to play a season healthy the whole year.

"I've got a lot of things on my side - experience and I've worked hard to get myself in great shape for my final collegiate career. Now I have to stay healthy."

Stallings' focus is on the Rebel team, but lurking in his mind is the standard set by last year's seniors on the offensive line - Chris Spencer, Marcus Johnson and Doug Buckles.

"Those guys set the bar high for the guys coming back. We want to live up to that and exceed it," he continued. "Besides, I don't want them to do better than me in the draft (laugh)."

Tre' was - and is - part of OL Coach George DeLeone's ongoing search for the best five OL as the 2005 season looms just around the corner. Stallings, who was a Freshman All-American in 2002, played mostly at his "home" position (right tackle) in spring, but switched over to right guard in the latter spring practices to give him and the offensive line some versatility.

"I might end up inside, but that doesn't matter to me," he continued. "We just want to get the best five guys on the field at the OL positions. It's pretty easy for me to play OG. I've played it before. Really the only position I haven't played here is center. Whatever works for the team works for me."

In Tre's mind, guard is easier to play than tackle.

"At guard, you have inside and outside help - guys protecting your flanks," Stallings explained. "At tackle, there are a lot of times when you get no outside help when the tight end is on the other side."

Tre', one of the leaders of the 2005 OL, has been trying to pass on his wisdom to the young OL candidates.

"I tell them every day that they have to learn what they have to do. Playing OL on this level is all about positioning, not mashing guys in the ground like they did in high school," Tre' said. "They have to understand that every player in this league is good and they have to use their brains more than their brawn to succeed. I'm trying to let them know that if they feel they can come in here and play like they did in high school - just mowing over people with no technique, then they are wrong."

There has been a lot of trepidation about the Rebs' offensive line. Tre' doesn't see it that way.

"Bobby and I have been there and know what to do. Darryl (Harris) is going to be a heckuva player. David (Traxler) made a lot of strides in spring," he assessed. "I think Andrew Wicker is going to be very good, despite his lack of experience, because he has natural ability to play OG and he's a tough, physical guy. If he comes through for us, that would be huge. It's realistic to believe he will.

"Hopefully, freshman Michael Oher will be like Chris (Spencer) was as a true freshman - almost ready to roll. The key for Michael will be all about learning the system and his techniques. He'll have to do a lot of extra film work, but it can be done. Also, Tony Bonds is a valuable senior, Ryan Jones has produced in the past and some other guys are going to step their games up a notch in August. I can feel it."

Tre' - like all the Rebels - has a couple of more weeks of offseason preparation and then it's off to the races with August practice.

"We know we aren't a finished product, but I see no reason why we can't be by the time the first game rolls around," he closed. "I feel good about the team and the OL. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed about staying healthy."

As all Rebs are, big fella.

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