When Corey Actis first arrive at Ole Miss in January of 2007, he didn't seem to fit the mold of a standout SEC offensive lineman.
He appeared a little out of shape and a bit disoriented. Spring training that year started slowly for him and didn't end much better.
But Actis assessed what he had to do in the five months heading into the 2006 season and went about doing it.
When he reported for August practice of 2006, Corey had changed his body and muscled up. He'd learned the offensive sets. And he was ready to take over the center slot.
From that point on, Actis has been one of the leaders of the OL. He's expanded that role heading into the 2007 campaign.
"We're all trying to be better leaders," junior LT Michael Oher said recently, "but Corey is in the middle of the action, calls our signals and leads us in the right direction. He's the guy on the OL."
Corey attributes it all to hard work.
"We work real hard as a team, as a unit and as individuals," he said. "It took me a couple of months to get acclimated when I first got here, but we all know what we have to do now and we are doing it."
Summer workouts are rigorous, expecially in July when the guys are turning on the afterburners in preparation for August's two-a-days.
"We workout at 5:45 every morning as a team. Everything in July is done as a team, the way I like it," said Actis. "Our leadership is starting to surface and we are bonding more and more each workout. We've got a lot of guys doing the right things and leading either vocally or by example."
Corey said the big goal for the OL in the offseason was finishing everything they do - drills, plays, techniques, etc.
"We watch film as a unit twice a week and we are always finding things we can do better. We are still working on pass protection some and we are always working on communication and learning our plays better," he explained. "We are getting there in terms of seeing a defense and instantly knowing what we have to do, but we still have work to do to be perfect in our recognition. The film work and drills have helped a lot."
Heading into last season, the OL was a question mark. Heading into this season, it appears to be a strength. What is the difference in them now as opposed to then?
"I'd say Arthur Frances Kehoe, man," he laughed, referencing OL Coach Art Kehoe. "He does a great job. Last year, we also drew direction from Andrew Wicker, but Coach Kehoe is the guy."
In the offseason, Actis said LG Reid Neely and RG John Jerry have caught his eye.
"John is starting to get more vocal and is working real hard every day. He's got some leadership ability in him. Reid too. He's got a shot this year and he's making the most of it," Actis continued. "I'm seeing some of the younger guys starting to get into the groove now. They aren't used to what we are doing, but they are trying to get into the mix. Their eyes are huge right now, but they'll get it soon enough. They just need to relax.
"I take responsibility to help the younger guys when I see them doing something wrong in terms of techniques or assignments or in communication. They are overwhelmed right now, like I was when I first got here, but they will get it with out help and Coach Kehoe coaching them."
Corey likes the team chemistry as 2007 approaches.
"I think more and more guys are buying in each session. I think more have bought in this year than last year and last year was pretty good," he assessed. "Offseason is not a drag. More guys are fired up about the effort that is needed. We don't want to go through all this work and lose any more."
The key to preventing those losses is finishing their blocks and doing the right things in pass protection.
"It's my job to get us in the right pass protection sets. It's everyone's job to get downfield and get an extra block to spring a back for a big run - we didn't do that enough last year," he closed. "We have to finish what we start."
Actis came to Ole Miss wide-eyed 18 months ago. Now, he's a veteran. Now, he's a leader.
Expect Actis to go out with a bang this year, leading the Rebel offensive line to greater heights.
Corey Actis update -
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