"We are working hard and coming together as a unit," said Ole MIss senior Defensive Tackle Jeremy Garrett when asked about his summer leading up to the 2007 football season.
That's a pretty innocuous, pat statement, but to Garrett, it means everything.
Jeremy has earned his stripes at Ole Miss doing just that - working hard, and the fact that he's now the leader of a hard-working unit is a source of pride for him.
"Summer has been real good. We are gelling and doing everything asked of us in the weight room and in conditioning, plus some," smiled Garrett. "I'm fine too. I'm not 100%, but I am getting there. I will be 100% by August."
As the leader of the DL, Garrett said there are signs that give him optimism regarding the defensive line.
"We are not working as individuals, we are working as a unit. If anyone is lagging behind in techniques or something, we help him and help each other. We watch film together, run together, drill together - nobody is going off on their own and doing their thing. Everything is a team thing," Jeremy explained.
Garrett also believes in the experience aspect of the defensive line candidates.
"We've got a bunch of guys who have been through the league. They stepped up in the past and will step up even more with the experience they have," Jeremy stated. "You can't take for granted how important experience is. You recognize things quicker and know how to react quicker and more effectively."
Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron has talked quite a bit about added depth on the DL and the benefit of having more able bodies to keep everyone fresher. Garrett, obviously, concurs.
"I've been in situations where we were playing with four or five defensive linemen, total. That's not easy. It puts a smile on my face to see us going into the season with 10-12 guys we think we can perform," he added. "None of us should get worn down or beaten up because we got injured from being fatigued. The more the merrier in a DL rotation."
Garrett said it's also good to see fellow DT Peria Jerry back at it after his long rehab.
"We're both getting there. Everyone on this team knows how good Peria can be if he stays healthy. We want that for him because he deserves a healthy year and because we need it as a team," he noted. "Injury will help you deal with adversity. I think Peria and I will be that much better for having to fight through the injury adversity we had last year."
On defense, Garrett said there's a different feeling this year.
"We don't have any big-name players this year, but I think we might have more overall talent and I think we will count on each other and play as a team better because we know somebody like Patrick Willis is not there to make up for our mistakes. We know we have to do our part and I think that has given us a close-knit mentality," Garrett stated. "Coach (John) Thompson, who is a great defensive coordinator, has also helped instill that unity and confidence in us. He believes in us and that makes us believe in ourselves.
"We've always been close and worked hard, but I think we are even closer now."
J.G. said the goal for the DL is to be more complete.
"We did some things well last year, but we want to do a lot more in terms of QB sacks, pressures, tackles for loss. We want to be one of the top defenses in the SEC, not just a unit that gets by and is OK," said Jeremy. "To do that, we have to keep working. We have worked so hard for so long, we have faith it will come together. We know it's coming."
Garrett relishes the role of being a team leader, even though he's not real vocal.
"I'm leading by example. I show the guys how to work and try to show them the right things to do. I'm comfortable saying something if I need to, but I'd rather show them than talk," he closed.
Jeremy Garrett isn't the first Rebel defensive lineman this summer to express optimism about the upcoming season.
But due to his track record of being one fo the hardest workers on the team and seniority of having been-there-and-done-that, you tend to listen more when J.G. speaks.
Jeremy Garrett update -
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