Don Hargroder, the rising sophomore linebacker from Abbeville, LA, is somewhat of a mystery man to most Rebel fans.
Sure, we know his name and his number (46), which he shares with DE Kentrell Lockett for now, but due to Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron's closed practice policy enacted prior to Don's arrival to Ole Miss, that's about all that is known. Here are the basics.
Name: Don Hargroder.
Size: 6-1, 210 pounds.
Position: Will Linebacker.
Goal in football: To hit ballcarriers.
Don showed up for his interview with The Spirit sporting the remnants of a mohawk hair style and a football scowl on his face.
"I'm not much for smiling when it comes to football," said Hargroder, who looks to have about 3 ounces of fat on his cut frame. "I'm pretty laid back off the field, but I like the contact part of football. Basically, it's why I play the game."
Hargroder came to Ole Miss last summer after a year at Louisiana-Lafayette.
"I just didn't like it. I wasn't happy there and didn't like the way things were going," said Don, who does not elaborate a whole lot and is a get-to-the-point kind of guy. "I called Ole Miss and told them I was interested in transferring. I was on scholarship at OL-Lafayette, but I am not here - yet."
The 2006 season counted as his redshirt year, a year filled with scout team assignments and relative solitude. No fame or fortune in this task.
"I just viewed it as an opportunity to try to help the team anyway I could and to work on my game. It wasn't just about helping myself, it was about helping the team too," he stated.
Hargroder came to Ole Miss at just the right time, he correctly figures.
"We had Patrick Willis, who was a senior, and Rory Johnson, who a lot of people thought would only stay one season. Then some guys left and the linebacking corps is now pretty open," Don continued. "It was also good timing because I got a year to learn from watching Patrick.
"Patrick was a huge help in helping th younger linebackers learn, especially in the film room and in watching the way he practiced full speed all the time. You know he's the best and you know he does it the right way. Follow his lead and you have to improve. He worked the little things all the time - he never stopped trying to get better."
Hargroder said he tried to absorb as much of the Rebel system as he could while he was sitting out, but during the season he was running that week's opposing team's defense and not learning the Rebs' D.
"It's been slow, but what I have learned I have been able to retain. I didn't get many reps in our system due to playing on the scout team, but I felt like that was more important for the team," he explained.
Spring training will be the first opportunity for Don to show the coaches what's he's got within the Rebel system.
What will they see?
"I'm playing Will LB. The coaches will see hard hitting, aggressiveness and energy. I bring an attitude to the table," he assessed.
Don has tried to build up his body since arriving at Ole Miss. When he got here, he weighed 200 pounds. Now he's at 210 and on a slow, but steady, rise.
"I'd like to get to 225 or 230. It's been slower than I thought it would be, but Coach (Aaron) Ausmus has me on a plan of eating and working out that will make the weight I do gain count," Hargroder said.
In the weight room, Hargroder slings some pretty serious iron around.
"I bench around 360 and I clean well over 300, around 315 or 320. The clean is the one most important one to an LB for explosion purposes," he explained.
Speed-wise, Don has not been timed in the 40 since he left UL-Lafayette, but while there he claims a 4.50 40 time.
"I feel like I have improved my speed since I have come to Ole Miss," Don said.
Don is confident in his abilities and believes he will challenge for the starting position next year. For now, it appears he will be competing against redshirt freshman Allen Walker for the top spot at the Will slot.
"I don't feel like I have a lot of weaknesses, at this point. My biggest weakness is being behind in the system, but with few veterans left at LB, we're all in the same boat. I think my drops are good in coverage and I think I fill the hole well. I just want to put on some more weight and learn the system," he noted.
For him, the timing could not have been better.
"I got good experience from watching Patrick and now all LB positions are open. I would hope the coaches are looking at me as their guy at Will, but I have to earn it in spring and fall," he declared. "I know the competition will be stiff, but I'll be out there trying to make as many plays as I can and hgelp the defense be good."
Hargroder will try to explode on the scene in spring practice and make sure he's no longer the Rebel "mystery man."
Don Hargroder update
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