After arriving on the Ole Miss campus last January, junior college transfer Ashlee Palmer had a conversation with Rebel Head Coach Ed Orgeron he recalls vividly.
"Coach O told me we couldn't think about individuality. It's more about the team. Right then I knew I was going to be moved," Palmer reflected. "At first, I didn't know if that was best for me or the team, but as spring training went on, I started to progress at linebacker and I started liking the move."
Palmer, who reported to Ole Miss at 214 pounds but is now in the 225 range, got some tutoring from the few returning linebackers on the team, started making plays in practice and started catching on to the new position.
"Jonathan Cornell, Brandon Thomas and Antonio Turner helped me a lot to understand the position," Ashlee said. "They helped me to get comfortable and it was obvious we needed help on the defense at linebacker."
After getting into the OLB position, he realized it wasn't overwhelmingly different from some strong safety duties he had performed in the past.
"At linebacker, you are closer to the line, but you are still playing the run first and covering tight ends and things that the safeties do. There are enough similarities that I could catch on. Linebacker wasn't totally foreign," he explained.
The biggest adjustment he had to make was in the reaction time in decision making.
"At safety, you have a little more time to read and react. At linebacker, you have to read and react instantly with no hesitation. That was an adjustment on my part and it's one I am still making," he continued. "At linebacker, we have gaps and fits we have to make immediately, but after you rep it a lot it becomes more natural."
The first week of spring training, Palmer said simple things like lining up properly and having a proper LB stance were difficult.
"Once I got those things down, it got easier. I got the basics down and then started working on my assignments and checks and calls," Palmer stated. "My next hurdle is to continue to toward mastering techniques and alignments and understanding the defense we run. We have a lot of calls and you have to be in the right place at the right time for the defense to work properly. That's my next task in becoming an SEC linebacker.
"I want to be the type of player who not only knows what I'm supposed to do, but who knows what everyone else around me is supposed to do."
LB Coach Dave Corrao said in a post-spring interview that Ashlee proved his prowess as a playmaker, but he had to become more consistent play-in and play-out.
"Some days in spring I'd have bad practices and some days I'd have good practices. The coaches let you know about both," he laughed. "You don't want to hear that. They know what they are talking about and it's not fun to hear you are playing poorly. Consistency is definitely my number one goal in August.
"It all comes down to paying attention, listening, absorbing and working hard to become the kind of linebacker I want to be."
When spring concluded, he talked with Corrao and was told he needed to put on some weight and get stronger.
"Coach Corrao told me he wanted me at 230 in August. I'm 225 now and working hard toward that goal. We are all working hard in the weight room getting bigger and stronger. It will come," he noted.
Suprisingly, the adjustment from JUCO to the SEC has been relatively easy.
"The practices are harder and the speed of the game is faster, but I adjusted to that quickly," he closed. "Coming from a big city to a smaller town could have been a big adjustment, but everyone has been good to me and I love it here. I already have a love of Ole Miss and all things Ole Miss. This place is everything I hoped it would be."
Ashlee Palmer update -
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