Cassius Vaughn said he was a typical big-eyed freshman the first time his number was called and he entered a real game last season.
But he quickly got over the shock and awe of being in the SEC.
"I was like all freshmen, I guess, kind of amazed, but I was never intimidated, just excited," said Vaughn. "My first game where I actually played some corner was against Auburn and the game seemed so much faster than I anticipated. I was just trying not to mess up and make mistakes."
After that experience, Cassius said he got comfortable with whatever was thrown his way.
"I didn't feel like a freshman anymore and I caught up with the speed of the game. At first, I was not really turning loose and playing, but the more comfortable I got, the more I was able to just be myself, relax and try to make plays," he explained. "I saw a big difference in my play once things became second nature to me and I wasn't having to think as much to know what to do.
"I really didn't feel completely comfortable until the LSU game, but I think that's pretty typical for a freshman who is getting spot duty."
Now, Vaughn expects more of himself, but he realizes he has improvements to make, on and off the field.
"On this level, you can't afford to get behind in anything. You have to take care of your business on the field and in the classroom. One thing affects the others," he noted. "On the field, I just want to concentrate on my skills, my techniques and my playbook. My total game needs to improve, but I feel I can step up and do it."
Cassius said he can't speak for every position but patience is a key for a young cornerback.
"You have to understand that developing as a CB is a process. When I first came in, I wasn't patient and wanted to play 'right now.' But I soon realized college ball was bigger than high school and it wasn't about me, it was about the team and what's best for the team," he continued. "Coach O instilled the team concept in me and I realized I had to get better in order to help the team. The coaches couldn't just throw me out there if I wasn't ready - it would hurt the team and that's the last thing I wanted.
"There is a lot to learn at corner, a whole lot."
Cassius does not look back in terms of if a redshirt may have been better for him than the playing experience he got.
"I think if we had been stacked up with corners for the future a redshirt might have been good for me, but since I have a good chance to be in the playing rotation this year coming up, the experience was good for me," he assessed. "I know what it feels like to be in a game now and I won't have the apprehension I did last year when next season rolls around. Experience really is the best teacher."
Vaughn's task from now until August consists of being accountable in everything.
"I just need to do everything the coaches tell me to do and take care of my business, on and off the field. Nobody wants to be a liability, in any form, for the team," Vaughn added.
Cassius will be battling with rising senior Nate Banks for the right cornerback slot in spring. For now, it's a two-man race as the roster is not deep with corners.
Dustin Mouzon and Terrell Jackson will compete on the left side.
"We have a couple of freshmen coming in we are excited about, but right now we are thin at corner," Cassius stated. "The odds are good I will be in the playing rotation next year, but I can't rely on the odds. I have to earn whatever playing time I get. I have to stay hungry. I have to work hard."
When Cassius reported last summer, he weighed 170 pounds. He is now up to 188 and feels good about himself physically.
"I put on 18 good pounds of muscle. We have a great weight program here. It's all about finishing everything and it pays off if you will adhere to that philosophy," he added. "I can tell I can still move as good, or better, than I ever have and I can tell I'm a better hitter with the extra weight.
"My goal is to get to 195-200 and maintain my speed. I think that is realistic."
Cassius is in a position to make a bigger impact on the team in 2007 due to the experience he got in 2006. He expects to make the most of his opportunity.
"Based on what I did last year, and the improvement I expect this year, I feel I have a lot to offer the team. My goal is to help us win and win big," he closed.
Cassius Vaughn update
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