Linebackers update -

The linebacker situation on the Rebel football team is all about "new." New coach - Dave Corrao. New starters. New backups. But one thing that isn't new, according to Corrao, is the effort being exhibited in spring training by his group. Read about it inside.

There's one thing that sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb to new Ole Miss Linebackers Coach Dave Corrao during spring training, now at the halfway point.

"They are playing very hard," said Corrao.

Simple statement, not a lot of info there, but it speaks volumes.

"I think our defensive leader last year - Patrick Willis - set the tone for the returning linebackers," sid Corrao. "They saw how hard he practiced and now they see he's a likely first-round draft choice due, in large part, to the effort he gave in everything he did.

"Our kids are following his example, even though he's not here anymore. The impression and footprint he left has carried over and will continue to."

It's more than "coach speak" when you hear the old axiom that playing hard is half the battle. From that perspective, Corrao is very pleased.

"We're getting the effort we have to have to get the job done," he said. "Certainly we have a long way to go, but if they will continueto give this type of effort, which I have no doubt they will, we can make up a lot of ground in terms of being inexperienced."

Corrao said the linebackers, as a group, are already "playing downhill and fitting where they are supposed to fit in most cases."

"They are doing what they are supposed to do. We've had some really productive days where guys were making tackles for losses, putting some pressure on the quarterbacks, getting some sacks," he continued. "I can see things coming together little by little.

"Obviously, there are a lot of things that have to be cleaned up - a lot of things, but they are willing to learn and take it one step at a time."

Corrao said one recent drill told him a lot of what he needs to know.

"We put them in what we call the giants drill, where we put the linebackers one-on-one with the offensive line," he stated. "We didn't always win the battle, but we always stuck our faces in there and played hard and physical. We have to finish what we started and keep getting better, but as long as they are game, we will get that done."

It was encouraging to hear Corrao say the LBs are fitting properly, but it wasn't surprising to him.

"They are learning and understanding at a good pace because they are putting in the effort. I've got guys coming in every day watching film on their own. They pay attention in the meetings and they are absorbing what we are teaching them. I'm very pleased with that aspect of it," he added. "Is every fit right? No, but they are further along then I thought they would be. We just have to keep working it."

Corrao did not get into individual performance too much, but he did mention MLB Jonathan Cornell and converted Safety Ashlee Palmer briefly.

"Wherever Ashlee ends up, whether it's linebacker or somewhere else, he will be a quality SEC football player. He's physical enough for linebacker, but we have to determine where he helps us the most. We are still mixing personnel and trying to find the right places for the right guys," said Dave. "Jonathan is doing well. He's calling our checks and defenses from that Mike position so he's the guy who has to lead the way. He's our most experienced guy in a room of inexperienced players. When he is playing confident and doing well, it makes the other LBs better. He's moving in the right direction."

Corrao said he's not allowing himself to get too carried away or gushing over seven practices, but he's "OK" with the way things have gone so far.

"Our task is still to find three who can really play and find three more who can travel and contribute without a lot of drop off. We will do that by working hard one day at a time," he closed. "Seven days into srping, we see progress and that's what we are looking for."

In his post-practice interviews, Coach Ed Orgeron has also mentioned - besides Cornell and Palmer - that Antonio Turner, LaDerrick Vaughn and walkon Jamie Phillips are taking LB reps and "doing some good things."

Don Hargroder, another LB candidate, was injured early in spring and will miss the rest of the workouts.

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