Hugh Freeze -

Like several positions on the Ole Miss football team, the tight end slot is short a player - starter Robert Lane, but the ones left in the trenches are buckling up their chin straps and getting the job done. Read about it inside.

The Ole Miss football staff has a mentality that is refreshing to see and watch in action.

One, they understand injury is a part of football. It certainly has been an important factor with the 2006 squad.

Two, they don't let it kill their enthusiasm.

As Coach Ed Orgeron said recently when a defensive end got hurt, "we'll just open up another can of them. . . . "

That mentality filters through the team. It's a "no excuses" mindset that states they aren't going to let injuries get in their heads and the next guy will rise to the opportunity and produce.

O doesn't discuss injuries extensively. He just plugs in another player and expects them to get the job done.

In the Vandy game, starting Tight End Robert Lane hurt his knee. He missed the rest of the game in a Rebel win, the Alabama game in an OT loss and is expected to miss the game against Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Tight Ends Coach Hugh Freeze said he will not allow that injury to halt the production from the tight end slot.

"We have faith in the guys we have behind Robert. Coach O always talks about not making excuses and raising the level of your play when someone in front of you gets hurt," said Freeze. "We all believe that. There's no reason players called on can't step up.

"I wish Robert was healthy, but he's not, so we have to find a way without him."

That way has fallen squarely on the shoulders of senior Lawrence Lilly and junior Robert Hough.

"They've done an excellent job in Robert's absence, all things considered," Freeze stated. "They have accepted the challenge and are getting the job done, like we expected them to."

Lilly has made the biggest push in the past three or four weeks, according to Freeze.

"We had to have Lawrence step up and he has. He's doing real well. I'm proud he's made a turn for the better. We needed him to step up and he has," Freeze assessed. "The last two games, Lawerence has done everything we've asked of him and has graded well.

"Lawrence's technique is so much better and his every-down intensity has really improved. He no longer takes plays off. He had a tendency to do that last year, but not now. In the Alabama game, he played really hard and was productive. We want that to carry over to the Arkansas game."

Hough has also taken a tough task and turned it to success.

"Robert plays so hard and he will take on anyone. We had to put him at fullback last week aginst Alabama, a position he knew nothing about and had to learn in a couple of days, and he responded," Freeze added. "He caught some balls and made some good blocks out of an unfamiliar position. He's valuable to us.

"Robert will give you everything he's got on every play and is a good receiver. He's also a good blocker, but he's still on the small side in some situations."

If anyone else got nicked up, jack-of-all-trades Keith Houston would be next in line and Freeze said he'd find a way to compete too.

"Keith can't line up at a straight tight end position head up on an OT or DE and produce on a consistent basis, but there are some things he can do to be a productive element in the offense for us if he's needed," Freeze stated.

"The thing is that we have to have the mentality on this team that whenever your number is called you have to be ready and you will produce. That's what Coach O is all about and that's what the mentality of this team has to be. So far, it has been. We expect it to continue."

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