Lane looks at 2006, 2007

Robert Lane believes the Ole Miss Rebels got "better" as a team in 2006. The rising senior tight end is looking forward to his final campaign. Read about it inside.

Robert Lane does not like losing.

It's not in his nature to accept defeat.

But he's also realistic in his approach and always tries to see the good side of things.

"We all wanted to win. That's why you play," said Lane, who is already cranking up for the 2007 season and his role as a senior leader. "We don't work year-round for 12 Saturdays to go out there and lose. From that perspective, we are disappointed in the 2006 season.

"But having said that, we did get better as a team in 2006. We were real young and struggled some early on, but we kept getting better throughout the year, almost pulled off some major wins and we capped the season with a win over one of our rivals. We took a step forward. I think anyone who looks objectively at the year would say that."

Robert, who always speaks his mind, said he did not want any misconceptions about his statements.

"We are not where we want to be as a team. I want to make that clear. Like I said, we don't play to lose and we have a lot of work to do to turn that around, but I can see the effort and the progress being made," he continued. "We did a lot of things better in 2006 versus 2005.

"Our offensive line and running game were real good, for the most part. Our defense started getting better about midway through the season and I thought our special teams were pretty good all year. We played some really good games this year where we came up short, but we know we belong. The next step is to find a way to start winning some of those close games."

In Robert's opinion, the hoped-for move forward will depend on this year's recruiting, continued improvement from returning players and the development of depth.

"We need more athletes in here. The athletes we have are good. We have good players, we just don't have enough of them," he explained. "What we need is depth - at all the positions. This year, when we'd get an injury, there were very few positions that weren't affected pretty drastically. The truly good teams in the SEC don't have to worry as much about losing a player. They plug in another one who is probably just as good. We didn't have that luxury. Every injury to us was critical.

"The coaches were constantly trying to patch the quilt and they did a good job, but there was only so much they could do with our numbers so low. That is why this year's recruiting is very important. We need depth at just about every position."

Robert believes a few more experienced bodies could have made a difference in some of the tight games down the stretch.

"To me, it took all we had - every ounce - to get into the fourth quarter with a chance to win. Then, in a couple of them, our depth and inexperience in those situations told the tale. We either gave out or didn't know how to handle the close situations because of a lack of experience because of the number of freshmen we were playing," he added.

"You have to have experience to go into an Alabama or Baton Rouge and take control of those situations. We handled them pretty well, but we didn't get over the hump. More experience would have put us over the hump."

Lane feels the "hump" is about to be cleared offensively.

"Discounting who the coaches sign and bring in here, just with the guys we have here now, I think we will be a good offensive unit next year," he noted. "We will all get better in the offseason and we all have experience now.

"We've got our running game going. We just have to get the passing game clicking. The offseason, the spring and the summer gives us a chance to get on the same page in the passing game."

Speaking of QBs, Lane expects there to be a battle for the position between now and September, but the one thing he is sure of is that all the candidates will be improved.

"From the way the year ended at quarterback, it appears there will be competition at that spot right up to September. That's a good thing - to have competition," he said. "Competition will help all of the quarterbacks get better.

"I think Brent Schaeffer and Seth Adams and the rest of the QBs are good football players. I believe in all of them and that's coming from a former quarterback."

But Lane doesn't restrict his "getting better" line of thought to just the QBs.

"Nobody on offense played perfectly. We all need to improve, not just the quarterbacks. Having played that position, I understand the QB is the focal point and gets too much credit when things are good and too much blame when things are bad," Lane continued. "We have to do a better job up front in pass protection, the wide receivers and tight ends have to do a better job catching the ball and getting open and we all have to do a better job in our offensive system.

"To lay what we did in the passing game at the feet of the quarterback isn't right. We were all a part of the success we had and all a part of the failures we had. The quarterback is the guy who makes things go because he's got the ball in his hands more than anyone, but everyone has to do their job for the quarterback to be successful. What the coaches are looking for in a quarterback is more consistency. They don't have to be a superstar, just be consistent. The big plays will come when the consistency is there."

Lane says it's all a matter of preparation and having the time to prepare.

"All of us have to prepare now. Now is the time to start developing the leadership in the team and when you get better. I learned that from Eli Manning when I first came here. He was meticulous in preparing in the offseason. Watching film, working out, lifting weights, organizing 7-on-7. You have to do all of that now," said Robert. "When we come back after the Christmas break, it will be full speed ahead and if you aren't preparing hard, it's not going to magically happen in August or next season.

"You can't miss weights, running, 7-on-7. You can't slough off on it and say I'll go tomorrow. That's where leadership and the desire to be a better team is established."

Lane, heading into his second season as a tight end, but his senior season as a Rebel, is looking forward to the challenges of TE and of being a senior leader.

"Tight end was hard this year because of the blocking. It was all new to me. I had never blocked anyone in my whole career," Lane said. "I was like a freshman at that position. I feel I got better as the season went on, but I know I have room to improve and I know what I have to do.

"I have to work hard in the weight room and have to be a leader. I've always worked hard, the coaches know that and my temmates know that. I want to lead, but I want to lead by example. I have always done that.

"I'm not going to change anything I've been doing. I've always considered myself a leader in a lot of ways. Being a leader means being accountable and responsible. Don't miss weights, go to class, do your running. I'm not a real vocal leader, but I will say what I have to in order to get the point across to the younger players."

Lane's hopes for the 2007 are high. He feels good things are on the horizon.

"Like I said, if we all improve as much this year as we did last year, individually and collectively, and we get some more depth in here, 2007 will be a great year for us," he closed.

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