It's true Defensive Line Coach Ryan Nielsen's best player, arguably - Peria Jerry - is not participating in spring training after offseason surgery.
It's also true 2006 starting DE Greg Hardy has not returned to practice after helping the Rebel hoops team to an NIT appearance this year. (He'll be back in the fold before spring ends.)
It's true Nielsen has had to deal with some injuries up front this spring.
But if you are waiting on him to poor mouth or say spring hasn't been a success - to this point, you are wasting your time.
"I think the ones available are doing a heckuva job," said Nielsen, entering his third year as the DL mentor at Ole Miss. "They are working hard on every snap, giving me everything they have in every practice. We can work with that attitude."
Perhaps the biggest surprise thus far has been the play of sophomore DT Daverin Geralds, a converted OL who played sparingly on the DL last season.
"Daverin is doing a great job. He had a real good scrimmage last Friday and has made a lot of improvements. He's becoming a big force in the middle for us this spring," Nielsen began his assessment. "Jeremy Garrett is having another good spring and has done well. Marcus Tillman is progressing nicely - his pass rush, defeating blocks and being all over the place dominating has been good to see. It's what we expect of him.
"DE Kentrell Lockett has shown improvement as well. This is his first spring and we expect a good jump in a player's first spring. He's one of the guys doing that. Brandon Jenkins had a very good scrimmage last Friday. Brandon lost some weight in the offseason and got stronger, which has helped his quickness and helped him defeat blocks. Actually, the whole DL played well in the last scrimmage."
Nielsen has a pair of walkons - Ben Benedetto and David Densmore - who he praised.
"Like the rest of them, they have given me everything they have. Their effort has been tremendous and we couldn't do without them to give us needed depth. Both those guys have done excellent," he said.
DE Chris Bowers has been banged up some this spring, but when he's in there, he's producing, according to Nielsen.
"Chris has great springs (speed and explosion) and was doing a great job. We just have to get him healed up for fall," Nielsen said.
To this point, Nielsen is pleased.
"We have made some big strides since last season. Marcus, Kentrell, Daverin have all gotten a lot better. They have to continue to get better, but I am pleased with their progress," he stated. "Like I said, they are giving Coach O and me everything they have."
And what is the status of Peria?
"Peria can't practice, but he's been right there with us. He's been in the meetings and has had a good attitude. He's cheering the other guys on and he's working real hard in the weight room doing lifts he can do. When a player is injured, they can go one of two ways - he's going the right way," Nielsen ended. "He's lost a little weight and is getting stronger. I expect good things from him in 2007."
Obviously, the DL still carries a "thin" status in the depth department this spring, but with some healing and some signees coming in this summer, Nielsen feels some of that will be alleviated.
DL progress report
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