Nate Banks -

Junior Cornerback Nate Banks was hoping for a better year - team-wise and individually. He's been picked on, beaten by opposing wideouts and hasn't made the plays he thought he would, but he's kept his head and hopes high for the future.

After playing in every game last year as a backup to four-year starter Travis Johnson, Ole Miss' junior Right Cornerback Nate Banks thought he was ready to take over the position in 2006.

After all, he had paid his dues as a backup and had experienced some success when his number was called.

But he found out quickly to be careful what you ask for - you just might get it.

"I was ready, but I wasn't ready," the personable Banks said recently. "I was in shock early in the year because I didn't realize how much more responsibility there is in being an every-down cover guy versus someone who came in for a few plays and then got to sit back and watch.

"The constant pressure, snap after snap, of being out on an island against the best receivers in the nation is not easy. It took me some time to adjust to the responsibility."

In the meantime, Banks will be the first to admit he didn't handle it as well as he would have hoped.

"I grade myself, to this point, about a C-minus. I'm my worst critic, but I think that's fair," he explained. "I haven't made enough plays. Early on, I just got beat too often. Then, I quit getting beat as much, but wasn't making the plays that were there to be made.

"Now, I'm starting to make a few more plays, but not enough to suit me. It's a process - a longer process than I imagined."

Banks said the mental part of being a starting corner is harder than the physical.

"As a backup, if you got beat you could just go over to the sidelines and ponder it. As a starter, if you get beat, they are coming right back after you the next play. The pressure is constantly on and if you let it get to you, the opposing offense will really focus on you and try to pick on you. I felt that in the Kentucky game," Nate stated. "It wears on your confidence if you let it."

Nate said he's had to develop thick skin and a short memory.

"Two things I didn't have in great supply at the first of the year was a thick skin and a short memory. Those qualities are probably as important as speed when you are playing CB in this league," he smiled. "You have to be willing to put yourself on the line every play and live with the results and the consequences.

"You have to be able to give it everything you have with the risk of failure and look at yourself in the mirror and say 'I did all I could.' It's not easy, but it's the position I chose to play a long time ago and the position that is more challenging than any on the field, in my opinion."

Nate said there's a fine line in accepting defeat, and giving in to it, and understanding reality.

"You never want to cross the line of accepting you are going to get beat. It hurts, and when it doesn't, you are finished," Banks explained, "but you also have to understand that the best CBs in the world get beat every Saturday and every Sunday.

"Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison aren't hooking up for all those yards against lousy corners. They burn the best there is every week. You have to understand that. You never want to like it, but you have to know that's the reality. That's the possibility and you will live to try to stop them the next snap."

Since Nate has accepted the reality, developed thick skin and has learned to put the last play behind him, the results have gotten a bit better.

"I'm getting better and gaining valuable experience every snap. I can't begin to tell you what I've learned this year and how much better I am now than I was the first game," Banks stated.

Nate refused to fall back on the lack of pass rush by the Rebel front as a source of his coverage woes.

"We are a team, we play as a team. There are plenty of times they do their job up front and we mess up in the secondary," he said. "We all want more pass rush, but we all want better coverage too.

"We are a confident defense. We believe in ourselves, but we have not made the plays we needed to make this year at this point. It's not one person or unit's fault any more than it is the next one."

LSU, the Rebs' next opponent, has a bevy of big, fast receivers.

The challenge is on, one Nate looks forward to.

"You choose to play in the SEC against the best college athletes in the country for the challenge. If you don't feel that way every Saturday, you need to find something different to do," he closed.

Nate Banks has been beaten. He's been beleaguered. He's learned some lessons the hard way.

But one thing he won't do is let all that be the final word on him.

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