Ole Miss' senior Tight End Robert Lane - like all the UM seniors - has one more trip around the playground as a Rebel.
He wants to make the most of it.
"Our goal right now is to have a winning season, go to a bowl game and win it. It doesn't matter to us what bowl it is. We just want to have a good season. If that means winning it all or just having a winning season, we all want to do the best we can do, whatever that is," said Lane. "We plan to do well and we expect to do well. We expect to compete at the highest level.
"As seniors, we want to leave the program in better shape at the end of this year than it was at the end of last year and before."
Lane believes that can be done.
"On the offensive side of the ball, we lost one starter, Andrew Wicker," he said. "We are still kind of young in places, but those young guys now have experience, especially at wideout.
"We feel they have developed into guys who can make plays now instead of guys who are just feeling their way through. It's kind of like what I had to do last year - feel my way through after being a QB all those years. I think we are all going to be a lot better next year due to last year's experience."
Up front, Robert saw substantial improvement in spring from the 2006 season.
"The OL was in the same boat, in a way, as the wideouts and tight ends," Lane explained. "Last year was the first time most of those guys had worked together and worked with Coach (Art) Kehoe. This spring, they jelled more and know each other better. We have four out of five back and that's a good thing."
And Lane is also excited about the fifth spot on the OL.
"We will miss Andrew's leadership up front, but from a talent standpoint, I think Reid Neely will fill that spot very well," he continued. "He's a big body and a good football player. He's excited about getting a chance and excited players are always more productive than guys going through the motions. As far as missing Andrew's leadership, that happens every year. Someone will step up from within the OL and take over."
Robert is not a very vocal person on the field, but make no mistake about it, he will have a leadership role and take up some of the slack in Wick's absence.
"I will probably do a little more talking, but the main thing I can do is lead by example. People follow people who give effort. Those guys get respect and respect leads to leadership," Robert added. "I'll do the right things on and off the field and hopefully the guys will notice and follow that lead."
Last year's experience at TE was not what Lane was hoping for, but in retrospect it was a learning experience that will pay dividends this year.
"I will be a much better tight end this year than I was last year. Going from QB to TE is a big transition. It's not easy learning how to block DEs and LBs in the SEC when you have never done that on any level before," said Lane. "I've done it for a year now and have learned. Last year was a great experience for me in terms of learning all the blocking techniques. My expectations for this year are very high in terms of my productivity."
Lane hopes the addition of converted OL David Traxler to TE will open up avenues for the coaches to use him in different ways this fall.
"I'd love to play in the slot some, go in motion, play some fullback in some sets. I'd love to move around some, but it's all up to the coaches. I'll do whatever they want me to do," he noted. "It's all about winning and they will figure out how to use the personnel to help the team in the best way. I know that sounds cliche', but it's the truth. We have coaches who look at everything from every angle and I trust their judgment.
"As a confident athlete who wants to win, I want the ball. Every skill player worth his salt wants the ball more. But I want to win more and I trust the coaches to put us in the right spots to win and to use our individual talents the right way."
In the summer, Lane says he can see more chemistry developing between the quarterbacks and receivers.
"In 7-on-7 drills, we are all getting more comfortable with each other. Our timing is better and our QBs now know the receivers better," he stated.
On the defensive side of the ball, Robert is expecting some players to step up.
"They have to. We will have some young linebackers and secondary people. They understand it's their turn to perform and produce and they are determined to do that," he assessed. "We have some good, athletic guys who are working very hard to fill some big shoes, especially at linebacker. I think they will get the job done. They probably won't be as spectacular as Patrick Willis or Rory Johnson, but I think they will be surprisingly good.
"Tony Fein is a big man with some maturity and a desire to be a good player. He can be a tremendous addition for us."
Lane missed some of spring with an injury, but says he's fine now. He's going through everything in the offseason full speed.
He's improved his max in the bench press by 40 pounds since last summer and is feeling more "physical."
"My goal is to continue to get stronger," he closed. "My other goal is to be as fit and in shape as possible when August rolls around."
The second time around at tight end should be a lot more productive for Robert Lane.
That scenario would bode well for the Rebel offense and make the "winning season/bowl game" more of a reality instead of a dream.
Robert Lane update -
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