When Cliff Davis decided to come to Ole Miss last summer after three years as a pitcher in the Houston Astros' baseball organization, he knew he wasn't going to make an immediate impact on the Rebel fotball team.
After all, he had not seriously picked up a football since he was a senior in high school at Eupora High School.
The 6-4, 225-pounder expected a redshirt and expected there to be a substantial learning curve in order for him to get back in the football groove.
Recently, we asked Cliff how the redshirt experience has gone for him as he prepares for the March 2 start of spring training.
"I'm coming along fine. Physically, I feel real good. I hae to continue learning defenses, but I knew that would take some time," Davis explained. "I'm working real hard in the offseason on my playbook and trying to learn coverages better.
"The season went really fast. I thought it would drag out because I had never had to sit on the bench before, but time flew because the pace is so intense. It was a very good learning experience for me."
After the slower pace of professional baseball, where a day consisted of some bullpen work and then shagging fly balls for the hitters, Davis has been thrust into an every-minute-counts environment, something he is enjoying.
"You always have something to do here. The change in atmosphere has been good for me. I like it better than sitting around all the time," he noted.
In terms of learning defenses, Davis said he was never exposed to the volume of what you have to know to direct an attack against today's sophisticated defensive packages on the collegiate level.
"My coaches made everything real simple for me in high school. High school defenses are normally not very complicated. I had a good offensive line and just stood back there until someone got open," Cliff smiled. "It was very elementary compared to what we see now on this level."
Now, he's seeing "everything" thrown at the quarterbacks.
"You have to be aware of all kinds of blitzes, you have to change the OL protections - which I have never had to do before, you have to recognize all types of coverages and disguised coverages and you have to be aware of the whole field and what everyone is doing, not just a couple of guys," Davis said. "I'm getting there. I've made progress, but I've still got a lot to learn and I believe, as a quarterback, you never stop learning."
Physically, Davis said "no problems at all."
"I feel I can make all the throws and the speed of the game has not been a problem for me from a physical standpoint. Physically, I am very confident," he continued. "I thought the speed and size of the players would be more of an adjustment than it was actually."
Cliff got sick over the Christmas break and lost a few pounds, but he's now back to 225-226 and is working diligently to get bigger.
"I think I can hold 240-245 - that's what I want to get to eventually. I want to be able to run over tacklers if I need to rather than trying to put a move on them all the time," he stated. "I'm basically a pocket guy. If I have to tuck it and run, I'll do it, but I'm basically a dropback guy. I'll stand in there until the last instant to get a throw off and the extra weight will help me take those interior hits better."
Being a redshirt, Cliff - like all redshirts - did extra lifting during the season. He can tell the difference in his strength levels.
"We didn't lift a lot in high school. Now, the squats, cleans and bigger lifts are all paying off. The type of lifting I am doing is different from baseball. It's been a big change, but it's for the better and football-specific," Cliff noted.
Cliff's spring goals are pretty simple.
"Mainly, I just want to get out there and compete. I need to keep my nose in my playbook and absorb everything I can about defenses," he closed. "I also have to bug the heck out of the coaches in the film room.
"I really wish I could get more time with the coaches, but NCAA rules prohibit that. So I understand I have to learn a lot of stuff on my own. I also have to learn a lot through experiences I have in practice and by making mistakes and correcting them."
This spring, the quarterback prospects going through practice will be senior Brent Schaeffer, senior Seth Adams, RS frosh Michael Herrick, Cliff and transfer Jevan Snead, who will have to sit out the 2007 season due to transfer rules.
Sophomore Billy Tapp, who played QB last year, has moved to tight end and Conner Wise, who was on the squad last year, has opted to pursue his ROTC career and give up football.
Cliff Davis update -
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