Redshirt freshman Defensive End Kentrell Lockett had been drawing praise from Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron all spring for his play.
But even Coach O did not see his Red-Blue Game performance coming.
Kentrell, O said, "was all over the field" in an 8-tackle performance that included two tackles for losses, a QB sack and a forced fumble.
"Kentrell showed a lot of that all spring," said Nielsen. "He played with a lot of intensity and really came a long way this spring."
For his part, Lockett said he could tell the difference in his performance from last fall to this spring due to some weight gain and some belief in his ability.
"Last fall, Michael Oher was driving me back five yeards. This spring, he couldn't do that any more," Lockett said. "I wouldn't let him."
When Kentrell arrived at Ole Miss last summer, he weighed a mere 211 pounds on his 6-5 frame. "Thin as a rail" took on a new meaning.
During the season, under the direction of S & C Coach Aaron Ausmus, Kentrell worked hard on his strength and trying to gain weight.
"I don't know the numbers, but I got a lot stronger in every lift - something like 50-100 pounds a lift. I've also gotten faster," he noted. "And I gained 19 pounds. I am now 230."
Lockett, who has a ton of personality and always seems to have a smile on his face, was fairly pleased with his spring performance.
"It was kind of up and down, but I finished it off strong," he continued. "I had some good practices and pass rushes. I had some days when I was really balling. But some days I just didn't have it.
"The last five practices, though, I think I had moments of being dominant and I had a real good spring game."
The bottom line, in his mind, is consistency.
"That's definitely what I'm saying - I have to be more consistent. You can't have a great game against LSU and then play poorly against Arkansas," he explained.
Lockett said the light started coming on this spring when he realized he knew what to do in every situation and wasn't having to think too much.
"Knowing our calls and assignments more thoroughly definitely helped me perform in spring," Kentrell said. "When you have the knowledge you need, you can turn loose and play. My pass rush is getting to be tenacious now because I'm comfortable in knowing what I have to do on every call.
"It just takes time and paying attention. I listen to everything Coach Nielsen, Coach O and Coach (Chris) Kiffin tell me and try to absorb it. That's paid off."
Lockett said the redshirt in 2006 helped him as well.
"I realized pretty quickly that everyone on this level is good and high school was over," he laughed. "I realized I had to get bigger, faster and stronger to be able to play in the SEC. The redshirt year also gave me a chance to learn about my team, learn the system at a slower pace and learn about the league we play in and what it takes to excel."
Kentrell's offseason goal is simple - eat, work, eat, work, eat some more.
"My goal for August is to be 245, minimum," he said. "With my frame I can eventually be a 260-pound rush end.
"I've always been skinny and always had trouble gaining weight, but I'm going to get the weight up," he closed. "It was hard gaining the 19 pounds I have, but I see now that it can be done and I see that I am much more physical with that extra weight. Imagine what I can do with 15 more pounds with the speed I have. . . . "
On the field, he says his effort is one of his strengths, but it can also lead to being a weakness.
"Sometimes I try to do too much and don't finish my assignments. I just need to be more disciplined and just do my job. The plays will come to me," he noted.
Now, Kentrell is settled in and has specific goals in mind.
"I'm happy. I'm making progress. I love Ole Miss and I have confidence I belong on this level," Lockett said.
All that's left now is to pull up a chair and start eating.
"The spring results motivated me. I'm going to work hard and I'm going to gain the weight I need. I want to make an impact in August and next season," he closed. "I'm going to eat everything in sight and I'm going to get stronger and faster."
Kentrell Lockett update
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