Media Days with Marcus Tillman

HOOVER, Ala. - Sophomores are rare at SEC Media Days. Marcus Tillman made one of those appearances last Friday.

Appearing poised and comfortable in his surroundings as he moved from room to room for TV and radio and on into the print media room, Tillman talked, among other things, about the strengths of the Rebel defense and his improvement as a player.

Here's what the Rebels' 6-foot-4, 260-pound second-year defensive lineman had to say to those gathered as he was asked questions by several media members.

Q: What are your impressions so far of Coach John Thompson?

A: I really enjoy Coach Thompson. He's one of those coaches that players really want to play for. It's been a good experience so far. You enjoy coming to practice every day and playing for a guy like that. I like his attitude toward life and football.

Q: Has Coach Orgeron been able to be the head coach more and stay away from the defensive side of the ball more so far since he has help?

A: He's been away from us more than normal. He's really a defensive guy at heart, so he tries to check on us as much as he can.

Q: You're a sophomore, and there are a lot of young players on the Ole Miss team this season. With only seven wins the past two seasons combined, are you guys closer to winning more games than in the recent past?

A: We feel we have a chance to be contenders this year. We feel we can come out with some more wins, maybe even some games people think we shouldn't win.

Q: How tough was it to play as much as you did as a true freshman last season?

A: It was real tough. I learned that if you don't get after it, they're coming at you. This is a big running conference. It's tough. All those great running backs. Offensive lines are huge. SEC football is strong. You've just got to stay with it and compete.

Q: Coach Orgeron was talking about how many defensive linemen you have on this team. He said finally there are some 300 pounders up front. How much better from the experience of last year will that defensive front be?

A: I think we'll be a lot better. I was playing like 250 pounds last year. The ends are like 270. We're bigger and quicker. It's easier now when you're heavier to play the position. The tackle and guard coming at you at the same time and you're like 250 and they're like 600 pounds together. It's tough.

Q: Who are some of your defensive teammates that you feel could have a breakout year?

A: I think Cassius Vaughn is going to surprise some people. Kentrell Lockett, Greg Hardy, Jeremy Garrett, Peria Jerry, Jonathan Cornell. There are a lot of names. All those guys could have big years.

Q: What's your take on the quarterbacks?

A: I like both of them (Brent Schaeffer and Seth Adams). I think they both have good talent. They play in their own way. Schaeffer's got that ability to run and the arm. Seth is consistent and does a lot of good things.

Q: Talk more about Adams.

A: He's a real good guy. He's real consistent. I play on the other side of the ball, so it's hard for me to make a real judgement. But he's a real good player.

Q: Did you guys work on defending the short passing game more in the spring?

A: Yes, we did. All our receivers are really fast and threats. So we were able to work on that more against some good competition on our own team.

Q: Did they burn you guys much in the spring?

A: Sometimes. Toward the end of the spring, we got better at it.

Q: Coach O talked about the defensive line being a strength of the team. Do you agree?

A: I do feel that way, because we've matured and we also have older guys to help. We have a lot of guys up front that makes us have quality depth. It's a different thing having a bunch of guys who can play. So that helps a lot.

Q: How much more comfortable are you going into year two than you were year one?

A: I don't want to say comfortable because I want to stay on top of things. I feel like I can play at this level because I played last year, so I'm ready to go.

Q: Talk about staying in-state to play college football.

A: I'm glad I made the decision (to come to Ole Miss). We're on the rise and I wanted to be a part of that. People are going to see the improvement we're making and how hard we've been working.

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