Ole Miss Offensive Line Coach Art Kehoe is a great interview.
Why? Because he's always eager to talk about what he's passionate about and that certainly includes the Rebel bulldozers he coaches.
A little over halfway through spring training, Kehoe's eyes light up when asked about a progress report.
"We are working hard and making progress. It's slow, but sure. I like what we are doing with our running game, but we have to shore up our protections and techniques a little the rest of the way through spring," Art, in his second year as the Rebel OL mentor, began. "We also are working on communicating a little better, getting our line calls a little better.
"Last Friday, we left our first scrimmage thinking we had kind of gotten our butts whipped, but after watching the film I didn't feel that way. It wasn't good enough, but it wasn't a butt-whipping. We will get better. We have been juxtaposing some guys due to some injuries. All of that is kind of tough, but it's good it's happening in spring and guys can jump in and work in different situations. Everything will be a blessing in disguise to us in the future in terms of versatility of our players."
Kehoe continued with an eye toward the attitude of the players.
"We need to tie down some things, but I love their attitude about the task at hand and ahead of us," he stated. "Looking into our future, we like what we are doing and where we are headed. We are not there yet, but we're coming."
Kehoe has four starters back from last year's OL - LT Michael Oher, C Corey Actis, RG John Jerry and RT Maurice Miller. Filling the left guard slot has been a top priority. Sophomore Reid Neely has been mentioned the most at that position in spring.
"I'm very happy with Reid. I think he's going to be a real good player. His first year he hurt his Achilles early in the year. When I got here, he was a guy who had not even practiced in college yet," Kehoe explained. "That year was a wash for him, but he's really starting to surface. I like his attitude. He shuts his mouth, pays attention and works hard. He's getting stronger in the weight room and is doing well in school.
"He's a big, tall guy who plays hard. As he takes more reps, he's getting more confident and more aggressive. Reid's not a finished product by any means, but he's going to be a real good player."
Can Kehoe tell a difference in the performance level of the returning starters? Do they continue to progress?
"Yes. It says a lot about the (Ed) Orgeron system to me. No matter if it's in the weight room or classroom or practice field, we are trying to dig in as coaches and players and it's working," Kehoe noted. "You hate to lose an Andrew Wicker, but our system is the same and the returning players benefit from that and progress because of the stability in the system.
"We are doing everything we can to get better and you can see the kids getting better. I was frustrated about my guys having some opportunities in the scrimmage and not taking advantage of them, but when you watch the film, it's stuff you can correct and there is evidence on film we are getting better. That's what I like - validation on film that we are getting better.
"Mo has some things to improve, but he's pretty solid and has shown improvement. John has gotten better. Michael tweaked his ankle and has missed a little time, but before he was injured he was probably doing the best job of anyone. Corey has come a long way and Reid has been a pleasant surprise."
Kehoe says he's getting good leadership from Actis.
"Being the center, and being as sharp as he is mentally, he's making the line calls and that's a form of leadership," Art said. "Michael is becoming more of a communicator and leader. That comes from growth and experience. He's very athletic and aggressive and when he grasps something - which he is doing more and more - he's a top player for us. Stronger, faster, tough and more aggressive - that's leadership. John is coming too in the leadership department."
Kehoe said the Rebel OL, in his mind, is headed toward having a "solid five with some depth" for 2007.
"If we stay healthy, there's no reason we shouldn't be solid and I think we'll ahve a little depth with Thomas Eckers, Darryl Harris and all those guys," he commented.
JUCO transfer Mark Jean-Louis has not practiced much due to injury this spring, but Art expects him back full speed this week and next week.
"He hasn't worked out much yet, but when he has been out there, he has shown some good things," he closed. "I'm anxious for him to get in the full swing of things."
Kehoe discusses Reb OL
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