Sophomore Linebacker Jonathan Cornell measures his words when asked a question.
Being somewhat analytical is part of being a successful linebacker. On the field, he dissects things quickly and attacks. In the media room, he absorbs an inquiry and gives a direct, no-nonsense answer.
"Being smart is one of Jonathan's main attributes," Rebel Coach Ed Orgeron said recently. "He gets it."
That's probably why, with so much in the air about the linebacker positions in 2007, Cornell is the settling factor, the rock solid beacon in the night.
"I just try to go out there, stay calm and do my job. I just play the game the way I'm told to play it," said Cornell, who doesn't waste a lot of words in an interview any more than he wastes motion on the playing field. With him, everything is a direct line to a goal.
"I'm going well right now. There are things I need to keep working on, and always will be, but I'm on track in my progress. I'm where I want to be, for the most part," he said.
The responsibility of being the top LB includes taking on a certain amount of leadership. Cornell does not shy away from that, but only when needed.
"I'm getting a little more vocal now, but it's still the older guys' defense. I still let Jamarca Sanford, Jeremy Garrett and Peria (Jerry) do most of the talking. If something needs to be said, I'll say it, but I pick my spots," he explained. "In terms of quarterbacking the defense, I'm comfortable with all the calls and checks I have to make, absolutely."
Jonathan likes the prospects of the linebacking corps.
"We are a close-knit group. We are all working hard and helping each other out," he continued. "We are all helping the younger guys learn. We have some new faces out there and it's up to the older guys to show them what to do.
"Lamar Brumfield and Scottie Williams are looking pretty good, they just have a lot to learn. We'll help them get here. They will probably end up playing this year."
Jonathan and Tony Fein started August camp at middle linebacker, but the last couple of days Jonathan has been playing outside LB to Tony's MLB.
"The young guys are all over the place, kind of ADD. Tony, being older and more mature, is straight ahead, more focused. His maturity level is head and shoulders over everyone else. I like playing with him because he's all business, like me," Cornell said.
Cornell said he has the defense down pat, mentally.
"We are adding a few wrinkles to the defense this fall, but everything else is the same. It hasn't bee difficult to me," he noted. "We have more blitz concepts now, but nothing hard to learn."
Jonathan believes the LB unit, once everyone understands what they have to do within the system, will be the total package.
"I think, as a group, we are big, fast and strong. We cover well and can do it all. I don't see us lacking in the physicality of the game and we will soon have the mentality down," Cornell explained.
Jonathan believes they are getting a baptism by fire right now due to the wealth of quality running backs the Rebels have.
"They are very, very, very solid. Very good," he said in reference to the Reb runners. "BenJarvus, Bruce and Cordera are tough runners. When you go to tackle them, you better bring your lunch box because there is going to be a collision. Practicing against them will only help us."
Cornell has no preference in terms of which LB position he plays - he just wants on the field.
"I don't think about preferences. I just want to help the team and I have enough confidence in myself to know I can help the team if I'm on the field," he added. "I'm a veteran by default now. I'm only a sophomore, but I'm the most experienced LB out there. I have to accept that and respond to that.
"Last year, if I needed to make a check and made the wrong check, it was 'it's OK, he's a freshman.' It's not like that this year. A veteran has to be 100% absolutely right. It doesn't fly when a veteran is wrong."
Jonathan Cornell update -
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