It's been, up to the past couple of weeks, a frustrating season for Ole Miss sophomore Defensive End Chris Bowers.
Bowers, penciled in as the starting LEO (rush end) after a promising spring training, severely sprained his ankle early in the campaign, came back still hobbling and sprained the other one.
After a couple of weeks being back in action and playing through some pain, Bowers can tell he's getting better.
Not healed completely, but better.
"I doubt I will be 100% healthy until I can rest my ankles for a couple of weeks," said Chris. "Probably after the season. I'm closer, but my ankles still hurt during the games and a lot after the games. I'm better but I won't heal until after the season. My right ankle hurts the most, but both are sore."
Bowers has seen vast improvement in the defense in the past three weeks.
"It's been a complete turnaround from our perspective. We are playing together now, we are coming up with more three-and-outs and we are getting more opportunities to cause turnovers," he added. "We didn't get any turnovers in the Alabama game, but we were close. They'll come if we keep putting ourselves in those positions. We had several against Vanderbilt. Football is more fun when you are making things happen and we are starting to do that now."
Bowers feels his comeback after missing a couple of games with the banged up ankles is improving after a slow start.
"I'm starting to hit a stride now. I played my best game this year against Alabama," he said. "I just have to keep building on that and keep getting better. I want to do more in getting pressure on the quarterback. I think I'm getting there. I've been frustrated at times because of my ankles, but I'm getting there.
"It's really good to see us building some depth with some guys coming back off injuries. We don't have much, but any kind of rotation will help us. We got a little fatigued against Alabama, but we are getting close to the point where we can take a series for a breather. That helps."
His biggest concern on defense is the Rebels getting off the field on third-down situations.
"We have to get more pressure on the quarterback in passing situations to help the secondary," said Bowers. "They can't cover all day back there.
"It's a struggle mentally when you play real well on first and second downs and then let the opposing offense off the hook on a third and long. We've been in a couple of situations where it was almost guranteed we were going to get off the field and we didn't. That takes a toll on you, but it happens and you have to put it out of your mind and come back strong on the next snap."
What can the Rebels do to enhance their pressure on the opposing QB, according to the Shreveport, LA, native?
"We just have to improve our techniques and keep working it hard. Rushing the passer is about technique as much as anything. We just have to keep working it," Bowers noted. "Our pressure packages are sound. It's up to us to execute them. We have at times, but not consistently enough."
Bowers understands the challenges facing the Rebel defense this weekend in Fayetteville when Ole Miss takes on Arkansas, who is currently leading the SEC West.
"Their tailback, Darren McPhadden, is really fast. He had a lot of hype coming into the game last year, but we did a pretty good job of containing him. I think we can do the same this year," Chris stated. "McPhadden is a faster back than Kenneth Darby at Alabama. He's really good so we will have to be on top of our game, but I think we will be. We've got some momentum going in terms of feeling like we are getting better.
"Arkansas has a really good offense with several playmakers, but we'll be ready."
Bowers said the Rebels bottled up Darby for most of the game last weekend, but let him pop a couple of big runs by not getting him on the ground when they had a chance.
"The great backs in our league have to be tackled with authority. They don't go down just because you are there and have your hands on them," Bowers closed. "We had Darby at the line of scrimmage two or three times and he got away for big gains. We can't let McPhadden do that or he will go all the way. He's too fast to let him get in the open field.
"Once we get our hands on him, we have to make sure we stay with it and get him on the ground."
OM Spirit Top Stories
Ole Miss Commitment Progress ReportThe Rebels will be looking to bring in a few impact defensive ends to help the gap with the departing seniors. A pair of their commits continue to show that they might be the…
OM SpiritYesterday at 12:09 PM
Podcast: Spirit Mailbag; Bradley Sowell JoinsIn this edition of the Ole Miss Spirit Podcast, Ben Garrett and Sudu Upadhyay answer your Ole Miss questions, and former Rebel Bradley Sowell stops by to preview LSU, among other…
OM SpiritYesterday at 9:16 AM
Friday Focus: Ole Miss vs LSUOle Miss travels to Baton Rouge to face SEC West rival LSU on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. CT on ESPN.
OM SpiritThursday at 11:48 PM
Pickett has major breakout potentialOle Miss landed Jamarko Pickett on Thursday. While being a bit off the radar, Pickett shows tremendous upside and long term potential.
Scout HoopsThursday at 8:26 AM