Corey Actis can't contain his excitement for the upcoming 2007 season, particularly when it comes to his group, the touted offensive line that he anchors as the senior center.
"I think we had a real good spring and I can't wait for the season to get here," Actis noted. "I missed a couple of days and we had a couple of other players miss a day here and there, but for the most part, we did well and got a lot better."
There was really one missing link heading into spring with the offensive line unit - left guard, where 2006 starter Andrew Wicker resided but has no graduated to the NFL.
In spring, somewhat surprisingly, sophomore Reid Neely emerged as the main guy at left guard.
"Reid worked hard in the weight room in the offseason and it showed in his spring play. We (OL) were all in the same workout group and pushed each other in every workout. It paid off for all of us," Actis said. "Reid had a great attitude about spring and he kept progressing every day. His confidence seems to be really high right now. He's definitely headed in the right direction."
Actis said the whole line - LT Michael Oher, LG Reid Neely, RG John Jerry and RT Maurice Miller - started communicating better due to experience in the system and that has paid dividends as well.
"Our understanding of the offense is so much further along than it was during the 2006 season," he added. "Consequently, I'm making better line calls up and down the line. If I don't make the right call, it can mess up the whole play. If I make the right call, we get a helmet on a helmet and the play has a chance to work.
"It's pretty important to make the right calls and for all of us to be on the same page. Last year was Michael's first year at LT, John was a true freshman and Mo was thrust into starting after Darryl (Harris) got hurt. Now, we all have experience and things are easier for us mentally."
The good communication aspect has allowed the OL to develop some consistency.
"Last year, we'd get a couple of plays right and then miscommunicate and have a bust. That kills drives as much as anything," he explained. "This spring, we were able to sustain more drives because we communicated well and everyone was where they were supposed to be on a more consistent basis."
Corey said the whole offense showed signs of making improvement as the spring wore on until the end.
"We were really challenged as an offense to improve in a lot of areas, most notably our third-down efficiency. The coaches put our 2006 third-down numbers on the board and they were just ugly. We all vowed to improve those numbers in 2007 and spring was the place to start," he noted. "I could tell by the end of spring that our third-down efficiency was much better."
Spring competition was, according to Actis, at a much higher level than the previous spring.
"Again, familiarity of the offensive system was a major factor for us on the offensvie side," said Corey. "We were able to work more on fine-tuning some things and on situational things, such as third downs and goalline and red zone. The more you are in certain situations, the better you know how to handle them when the games come around.
"It's totally different from last spring. When you know what you are doing, you are able to play up to your capabilities and at a higher level. Last year, I was unsure and couldn't perform at the level I know I am capable of performing at.
"We still have to keep going and keep working the process of making progress, but we did a lot better in spring."
Actis believes Rebel fans will see improvement across the board in the OL in 2007.
"We're going to be bigger, stronger, faster and more knowledgeable. We have some experience now. There's no reason we won't be better, a lot better," he closed.
And Corey Actis will be, literally, right in the middle of it.
Corey Actis update -
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