Ole Miss Strong Safety Jamarca Sanford hit the ground running, hitting and talking in his Rebel career.
Even when he redshirted in 2004, his chatter at practice became a sidebar, entertainment to break the monotony of repetition.
Jamarca's constant banter with wide receivers, QBs and running backs - his way of challenging them in practice - drew an audience. What would come out of his mouith next? His take on the constant talking? If you have to be out there anyway, why not make it fun?
While he was supremely confident and certainly popular with coaches and players, the serious side - the leadership angle - did not surface. It didn't have to. There was always FS Charles Clark for him to lean on, for leadership and for assignment directions.
Now, Clark is gone and Jamarca is no longer "just" the hard-hitting, fast-talking, practice comedian. He's one of the older guys now and is looked at as a leader, a role he accepts and is starting to cherish.
"As long as Charles and Patrick (Willis) and Trumaine (McBride) and some others were around, I didn't have to take an active leadership role. I do now. It's my turn to set the example," he said.
Sanford won't change his personality - he loves to get under the skin of his teammates with good-natured ribbing during practice to motivate himself and them. But instead of being under someone's wing, so to speak, he will be sheltering the younger guys who are replacing the veterans from last year.
"Instead of always getting the help, I'm giving it now," Jamarca noted. "We've got (in the secondary) two brand new guys. Kendrick Lewis is playing free safety and he just came over from offense. Cassius Vaughn played some last year, but he's basically a rookie at corner.
"We've also got new linebackers and some of our backups are young. They all need help and direction and need the older players - which I am now one - to set the example of how things are done."
That's a side of Jamarca that has not been seen in his tenure at Ole Miss. Don't take that to mean he doesn't take football seriously, but it does indicate a role reversal.
"Like I said, it's my turn to do those things and I think I am ready. I learned from the best by watching and listening to Charles and the older guys from years past," he stated. "I realize the position I'm in and take that responsibility seriously."
In the past, Jamarca didn't have to learn everything there is to know about the Rebel defense. Clark would tell him what to do, when needed. Now, he's directing traffic.
"I realized I had to learn the concepts of the whole defense, not just my position," Sanford continued. "When you've got some rookies back there with you, and they are uncertain about some situations, somebody on the field has to have the answers."
It's not like Jamarca avoided that task in previous years. It just wasn't his turn.
"Charles always made me feel comfortable back there, even my first year starting when I was kind of lost," he added. "Now it's my time to make the younger guys feel comfortable. I'm the one in the secondary they can lean on."
New Defensive Coordinator John Thompson has added some twists to the coverages that Sanford believes will help their cause.
"He disguises coverages more. We will look like we are in one coverage and actually be in another. It's more to learn, but it gives you an advantage and I thought everyone caught on pretty well in spring," said Sanford.
Sanford believes health is a key to the Rebel defense in 2007.
"Once we get Peria (Jerry) and J.G (Jeremy Garrett) back healthy, and add in what Coach Thompson brings to this defense, we will be fine, but we have to stay healthy. My goal for the summer is to keep working hard and to enter August completely healthy, which I am right now," he assessed. "I know we are hungry. I know we will play hard and leave everything on the field. I know we will be prepared with Coach O and Coach Thompson overseeing the defense. It will be up to us to produce."
Jamarca Sanford update -
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