Mouzon ready to lead in secondary

Dustin Mouzon is aware that he must lead a mainly inexperienced group of players in the secondary. Luckily for the junior and the rest of the Rebels, he has paid close attention to the elder defenders before him.

Mouzon is slated as a starter heading into the season and is one of only two players to record an interception last season. The pressure is on him in two ways- to acclimate the newcomers and also to help increase the production from 2006.

"It hit me in the spring when coach asked me to take the young guys and get them in the right direction and give guidance," Mouzon said. "Tempo is quick so everyone has to be smart and heading the right way. It isn't a big thing. I am going to do the best that I can.

"Leadership is a big thing for me personally. I had a chance to look up to Trumaine McBride and Travis Johnson. Everyone else will look to me, and I have to play that role. I am a leader now."

The Orlando, Fla., native is helping the rookies on the practice field, but he also understands that game time will be when his leadership is tested. Mouzon remembers McBride taking charge and will now attempt to follow in that image.

"Confidence. T-Mac always played with confidence. Sometimes I would be nervous, but he always helped me out there. Aggressiveness also. He was always aggressive and attacked the ball. I've been watching some of his films and asked Coach Rippon what he thinks. Playing the ball is the main factor."

One thing that has to be better than the McBride-led unit is turnover production. The Rebels forced only 13 turnovers last season including just three interceptions. New defensive coordinator John Thompson is emphasizing takeaways with the hope of increasing the number by 25. This is evidenced by a No. 38 turnover sign hanging on the meeting room wall.

"Swarming to the ball and make sure everybody gets to the ball. We want the defense at the ball and trying to strip it. We call it CPR- club, rip and punch it out. We have to hustle, no loafs. Get to the ball and get it out. We also dropped a lot of interceptions. Offense has to be able to count on us.

"We need turnovers, and there were only three turnovers out of the secondary last year. I had one, and Charles Clark had the other two."

Mouzon is confident that the secondary and especially the cornerbacks will succeed, but health is a key factor. Even with the talented newcomers, the position is a difficult one for the nuances to be learned quickly. Especially from the high school to the college level. Depth could be of concern all season.

"I feel we have enough (depth), but we are young. Playing corner is probably the hardest thing for a freshman to come in and play. Being out there on an island by yourself and being exposed. Once you mess up, the heat is on you. I think we are really good, but really young. Coaches get scared when they throw a freshman in there. If I, Cassius or Terrell go down, one of those guys are in."

If the learning curve is straightened out by newcomers, Mouzon is encouraged by what he sees on the practice field.

"I have seen great speed out there. Lionel (Breaux) is a really aggressive corner, and we really like that. It is all about getting technique right. Hands right and feet right, once that happens, we can be pretty good."

Mouzon's attention has been focused on the defense, but he has also had a chance to observe two offensive players in Greg Hardy and Brent Schaeffer.

Greg Hardy will see some snaps on offense, and Mouzon has been impressed by the primary defensive end. The tall, athletic Hardy will be a tough assignment for any corner.

"I see him four or five times a day, and he is like Warren Sapp-T.O. at the line. It's hard to guard him, but you have to be aggressive with him. It's really not fair, but I got to play him."

As for Schaeffer, the report isn't as glowing. Mouzon faced off with Schaeffer in high school and says that No. 7 doesn't seem like the same player- although the talent is there to be a standout.

"He has to show up somewhere. I think he has picked it up a little bit, but he has to pick it up a whole lot more. From where I saw him in high school, it's different. He has to pick it up. He has so much talent and for him to not be starting right now. This is his last year. He has to do something."

And so do the cornerbacks with Mouzon at the lead.

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