Ole Miss Middle Linebacker Tony Fein knows exactly what has to be done to turn the Rebels around.
"We have to perform better as players and we have to do it now," he said matter of factly. "The onus is on us. When we are playing well, it shows we are good and are capable. There's no reason not to do it all the time."
Fein seems weary of the "getting better" line.
"Yes, we are getting better, but we don't have the luxury of time. This is not July any more," he continued. "We can't draw the 'we're improving' thing out any longer. We have to start performing now, this week."
Fein uses himself as an example.
"In the past, I have always been the biggest and strongest guy, so to speak, but now I'm in the SEC - the best conference in the country," he explained. "There's no place for anything but bringing your 'A' game.
"The linemen the linebackers have to face on every down are big, fast, strong and they know what they are doing. You better counter that with great technique, seeing things quickly and reacting quickly. This is not Pee Wee football - we all came here to compete against the best players in the country, so it's time to compete and perform."
Tony admits he didn't expect his transition to this level of football to take as long as it has, but he's tired of the act of transitioning.
"I'm playing much faster than I was earlier in the season, but I have to play even faster. I'm getting the experience and getting better daily, but I'm ready to perform better on Saturdays," Fein continued. "We all are. Coach O made a statement that we didn't have SEC caliber players yet. I know he was just trying to get a rise out of us, but he's right. Until we perform better, we are not SEC caliber.
"He knows the same thing we know. We are a good team, but we aren't showing it. We go out there and stone Georgia and Forida for a while, then we start making mistakes, losing our concentration and things fall apart. There's no excuse for that. You can't do that in the SEC. He knows it and we know it. He's just trying to drive that point home."
Fein tries to cut the linebackers some slack, all things considered, but he says it's time for the slack to go out the door and for the group to tighten up.
"We've got three brand new linebackers who have never played together and never played on this level. We knew there would be growing pains," he added. "But it is time for us to lose those growing pains. We are playing in our sixth game. It's time to put those thoughts behind us and perform. We need to kick that crutch away."
Tackling has been a glaring issue for the Rebel defense. Fein says that is being addressed. . . and addressed. . . and addressed.
"I think everyone just assumed if you get to this level that you know how to tackle correctly, but we have gotten away from some of our fundamentals of tackling," Fein stated. "We have to step back and fix it. Feet moving, head across, wrap up, drive through the ballcarrier. It's all about basics and performing with good technique."
Of course, the next step, in Tony's mind, is winning.
"Our confidence is not down, but we need to win. Period," he closed. "We have not learned how to win, but it is definitely time. This is the halfway point in the season. It's time for us to step up and get it done - past time. We've got proof on film that we can do it, that we are capable, now we have to put it all together and roll."
Tony Fein -
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