Tidbits from the week

As the Ole Miss Rebel football team awaits visiting Georgia, the tenth-ranked team in the nation, we thought a little desk cleaning was in order. The following are some tidbits on various subjects pertaining to Rebel football.

* Senior MLB Patrick Willis said Coach Ed Orgeron reverted back to the "old Coach O" this week in practice.

"It's been a lot of fun for the older guys who were here last year to see the old Coach O come back. I'm sure it was a shock to some of the younger guys, but this week was the Coach O we knew from last year in a lot of ways," said Willis. "I'm not saying he's been laid back this year - he's still been Coach O, but he drove us to new levels this week. Everything has been more crisp. He's holding us more accountable for what we do in practice. Again, it's not a drastic change, but it was noticeable that he's not going to put up with us not producing. He's doing what he has to do to change the direction we were going. This week was the first time this year - as the defensive captain - that I felt we came together as a group on defense. We had fun and it's been amazing. Coach O is not a guy who is going to stay with something that isn't working. I don't know what we were missing, but we didn't have the feeling we've had this week. Hopefully, that will carry over to the games from now on out. This week's practices have given us a lot of hope we can turn this thing around."

Willis said injuries have played a part of the Rebs' lack of production on defense, but he's basically tired of that as a reason.

"Sure, we would love to have Jeremy (Garrett) and Peria (Jerry) in there. They are very good players and we miss them, but we have what we have and we have to make the most of our situation," he explained. "Our young defensive ends (Greg Hardy and Marcus Tillman) are tough guys who are working hard and getting better every day. They are going to be unbelievable players, but they are going to make some mistakes while they are learning. We have to deal with that and stick with them. When their light comes completely on, they will be hard to deal with. By the end of this season, they will be at a point where they don't want the season to end because they will be getting it and will be making lots of plays.

"Rory (Johnson) is coming along too. I can get him lined up. He can run and he can hit. He's going to be fine, but everyone needs to understand where he is right now - still learning. We have a lot of guys who are learning on the run, and we are rebuilding here, but I have to be honest. If I was coming out of high school right now, I would come to Ole Miss because there's something great happening here. Personally, I know I will come back when I can in the future to watch Ole Miss football."

* Tillman is a man of few words, but he's pleased with his progress, thus far.

"I didn't expect to be starting, so I've had to learn on the fly. There have been a lot of ups and downs so far, and there are a lot of things I have to work on, but I see progress," he said. "I expected some down times, but I'm getting there.

"I'm learning a lot and I'm starting to recognize things quicker. I'm not having to hesitate as much now and I'm not having to think as much. My technique is getting better. Peria Jerry has helped me a lot with my play and with my mental approach. He's helped me not get down on myself, and that's hard to do sometimes when I'm in one of those down times. What I have to do is eliminate bad snaps and bad games. I played good against Missouri and didn't do much right against Wake Forest. I'm confident I'm getting over that hump."

* NT Brandon Jenkins had six tackles against Wake Forest and has been getting praise from Coach Ed Orgeron, but Brandon does not consider the game he had against the Demon Deacons a breakout performance.

"It may have been a turning point for me, but it wasn't a breakout game because we didn't win," said Jenkins. "I had a good week of practice before Wake Forest and it showed. I have had a good week this week and I believe it will show against Georgia.

"I think we are ready to make something happen. We have been practicing hard and working hard to get better. Now we have to transfer it to the games. We've got a lot of football to play - we still have all but one of our SEC games to play. Our season is not over by a long shot. We just have to take it one game at a time and build what we know we are capable of building. We need a win. We had a slow start to the season, but we can correct that now. We've been flying around making plays and having fun in practice. We have to take that to the games and you'll see a different defense."

* Defensive Line Coach Ryan Nielsen has two freshmen, a sophomore and a journeyman starting. He's missing two stalwarts in Peria Jerry and Jeremy Garrett. The depth is virtually nil. But Nielsen said that is not a reason not to produce.

"Brandon Jenkins did a nice job against Wake Forest, but we want more improvement and I think he will deliver," said Nielsen. "We think Hayward (Howard) is coming along little by little. Chris Bowers is getting healthier. Our young defensive ends - Marcus Tillman, Greg Hardy and Kentrell Lockett - are doing real well. All three are hard workers. When we recruited them we felt all three would be outstanding. Nothing they have done has changed our minds.

"I feel a lot more comfortable with the young guys now because they will continue to get better each week. They are handling the learning curve pretty quickly, which is a good thing. They are impressive, for freshmen, but I really can't look at them as freshmen any more. They are here to win and they don't think of themselves as freshmen. Them being freshmen doesn't weigh into too many of my decisions any more. We are going ahead."

* Center Corey Actis said the last three weeks have been frustrating, but the beat goes on.

"As Division I players, we have to be mature enough to put losses behind us. Keep going, and that's what we are doing," he said. "That's easier said than done, but you've got to do it - we have no other choice. You spend a little time in the film room saying we should have done this or could have done that, but in reality you have to move on.

"We're trying to click as a unit. We've been a little off here and a little off there. We have to compete harder. We had to find another notch and Coach O has helped us with that this week. We've been challenged more this week and we have responded to it. I like the way we are practicing right now. Everyone on this team still thinks we can turn our season around. It helped our morale for Coach O to turn it up this week and to help us understand we could reach another level. This week has been good for us. The whole offense believes we are real close to making something really good happening. We are anxious to see that."

* RT David Traxler - will he or won't he? After gaining the starting RT job last week after starter Darryl Harris went down with a knee injury, Traxler suffered an injury himself Tuesday in practice.

Coach O said earlier in the week Traxler would not play against Georgia. Upon further evaluation of the injury, Coach O felt Traxler would play against the Bulldogs. He used the term "maybe."

The hope is that Traxler will play, obviously, but if not LG Andrew Wicker will move to RT and Thomas Eckers will be elevated to starting status. Wicker has been a little banged up as well. It is not sure if his injuries will hamper his movement or not, but Coach O and OL Coach Art Kehoe believe he is the next best option for tackle.

Will Traxler play? He's needed, for sure. Keep you fingers crossed.

* WR Michael Hicks made an impact late in the Wake Forest game with three catches for 50-odd yards. He exhibited good moves after his catches. Coach O stated Michael might start against Georgia. If not, his playing time will be significant. A big receiver the Rebs need.

* Rory Johnson? The awaited first start for the late-arriving JUCO transfer is a day away. How will he respond? With help from Willis with his assignments, we look for his debut as a starter to be productive. The coaches have been patient with him in the learning process and it's doubtful they would put him out there without him being "ready." Look for number 48 to make a difference on the defense.

"I think I am ready. I've worked hard preparing myself. I'm ready to make some plays and get in a rhythm," Johnson said. "I guess I epxected too much when I got here, but I quickly figured out I had a lot to learn and I've been spending a lot of time trying to make that happen."

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