Jumping to the head of the 'Pack'

After spring drills, rising sophomore Sam Linebacker Garry Pack found himself in a position he didn't expect - second team behind fellow sophomore Dontae Reed. In the offseason and August, his goal was to get the job back. A little over a week from the opener with Memphis, Pack has accomplished his mission. Read about it inside.

In the ill-fated 2004 season, then true freshman LB Garry Pack saw limited playing time behind senior Brian Lester in the two-LB 4-2-5 Rebel defensive system.

But he optimistically looked forward to 2005 because the Rebs were adding an LB slot to their defensive scheme with Coach Ed Orgeron's 4-3 set and it didn't appear - on the surface - the talented player from Oak Grove had a lot of competition on the squad.

During spring drills, however, Pack's clear sailing to a starting slot and what many observers feel will be certain college stardom caught a head wind in the form of fellow sophomore LB Dontae Reed, who simply beat him out of the number one ranking at strong side outside linebacker.

"Dontae deserved it," reflected Pack recently. "He made more plays than I did in spring drills. Dontae is a good linebacker. Me getting beaten out may have been the best thing that ever happened to me.

"I had never had to really work for anything before. Playing football had always come easy for me and I was always good enough in high school to start and produce. On this level, you've always got competition and always have someone pushing you for your job. Dontae pushed harder than I did in spring."

Pack assessed what he had done in spring and realized what he had to do in the offseason and in August.

"I took plays off in spring and it caught up to me. Dontae didn't. He played every snap like it was his last snap. I realized that I would have to do the same thing in August if I was going to win the job back," he explained. "I was faced with a competitive situation that I have never been faced with before and I didn't handle it very well. I decided I had to dedicate myself and be more competitive in the offseason and August."

Pack and Reed worked out together in the offseason. It's a healthy competition between two friends.

"I help Dontae and he helps me, but we competed in everything. We pushed each other very hard in the summer because we both wanted to be in the best shape possible," he continued.

Pack gained some needed weight - from roughly 215 to 223, but he made sure he maintained his speed.

When August rolled around, he felt he was ready for the task at hand.

Reed started out number one, but within a week they were splitting time with the number one defense. Slowly, Pack starting grasping the defense more and more and began making more noticeable plays.

Midway through the second week of August drills, Pack was getting all the number one snaps. He has not relinquished that role since and it appears he will be the starter in the opener unless something drastic happens in the next 10 days.

"I know just because I'm number one right this minute does not mean a thing with Coach (Ed) Orgeron and (LB) Coach (Shawn) Slocum. With them, there's always competition and you always have to prove yourself. There is no resting on what you did yesterday around here. Yesterday doesn't mean much," he explained.

Pack is currently working on improving his game, which is a constant, ongoing thing.

"I think I've got the basics of th defense down. Now I'm trying to work on my pass drops, learning more about offenses, understanding quarterbacks, just being more of a student of the game," Garry said.

Garry feels good about the 2005 Rebel defense.

"I think we will be a fast, aggressive defense. We all like that," he stated. "We can attack from a lot of different angles with speed. If we all carry out our assignments the way we are supposed to, I think we can be real good."

Garry said the LB situation started out as thin, but now he thinks it's deeper and will be fine due to some incoming freshmen who will help out.

"Dontae and I are about equal, which means we should be pretty good at SLB. Quentin Taylor is pushing K-Rob and Robert Russell is coming on. Rogers Loche, another freshman, is also doing some good things and Keith Houston is adjusting to being a linebacker and has made plays," he said. "I think the linebacking corps will be good now that we have developed more depth."

As for Pack, the future is more of the same that got him where he is now - number one.

"I've got to keep on working. I learned that lesson. Dontae is not going to relax and just give in. He's going to keep competing and I've got to keep producing to stay a little ahead," Pack ended. "We are making each other better - the way it's supposed to be."

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