For two years, highly-touted Ole Miss Tailback Cordera Eason has been reduced to special teams play while playing second fiddle to BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bruce Hall, now graduated from the Rebel squad, at tailback.
The quiet, unassuming Eason has been the center of quite a bit of fan discussion over the past two years.
Most of it has centered around wasting his redshirt opportunity in 2006 over a few snaps and not trying to get him more reps for the future, which is now upon us, and it would be hard to argue with either point of view.
But Eason has never whined. He's been a paragon of patience, but now he's ready to pounce on his opportunity with a new coaching staff.
"I am very excited to show I am a feature back in the SEC," Cordera noted. "I've waited two years as patiently as I could, but now I feel like it's my turn. I've been doing everything in my power to prove myself to the new coaches.
"I'm working hard, carrying myself the right way, staying with the books - doing everything to let them know I want the responsibility of being the go-to back. I know I have to prove myself. I'm the number one guy going into spring, but that does not mean anything yet. I know that can be taken away if I don't do my job."
Eason has no resentment about the last two years. In fact, he is grateful to have played with BJGE and Bruce.
"They taught me a lot about the position and about what it takes on this level," he continued. "Ben taught me patience as a runner. He taught me that you can't freestyle on this level like I did in high school at Meridian - you have to read a play and be patient as it develops. I think what separates me from Ben, though, is that I will be faster and quicker.
"I'm at a good weight - 220-225 - and I can feel myself getting faster every week from working with Coach D (Don Decker)."
It's already been documented the transformation he has made with his body. Cordera entered Ole Miss at 240 pounds and realized quickly that was too much bulk. Since then, he has been on a stringent diet and it's paid off with a slimmer, but more powerful, Cordera Eason.
Cordera is now focusing on his speed and explosion with Strength & Conditioning Coach Don Decker.
"Nothing against the former strength coaches, but what we are doing now is a lot different. We were all about power before. Now, with Coach Decker, we are all about speed, quickness and explosion, plus power," Cordera said. "I think that will take us to the next level.
"I can tell a difference already in our bodies and the way we move. We are stretching stuff now that I never knew I had, stuff I never knew I could stretch, and it's working. My flexibility has improved a lot already."
The one area of concern about Eason his first two years was ball security. He was prone to fumble a little more than former RB Coach Frank Wilson liked in practice. Cordera says he has been working on that aspect of his game as well.
"I've been doing exercises to get my hands stronger and have been working on the proper way to hold the ball where it is most secure," he said. "I think I have improved that area of my game, but the real test will come when I get hit in spring training.
"Put it this way, I know the importance of holding on to the ball and will get that problem taken care of, but I don't think it's a huge problem. I just need to shore it up some."
Eason is enjoying building a player-coach relationship with RB Coach Derrick Nix and OC Kent Austin.
"They have already helped me a lot with a lot of little things. You can tell they are really into their craft. They break things down to you and let you know why they are asking you to do things a certain way to where it makes sense," he added. "They make it where you want to play for them and give them your all."
Cordera said the pressure around the team has subsided and there's now a more fun atmosphere.
"Coach (Houston) Nutt is intense, but he's also laid-back. He wants us to enjoy football, to have fun. He's a player's coach, no doubt," Eason stated. "The whole coaching staff is that way.
"We feel like a family now and I think that feeling is really going to help us. We know we are all pulling in the same direction and that will only make us stronger."
Eason said the team's transformation seemed to have happened over night.
"After our first team meeting, it was like something was lifted off our shoulders. We are like a brotherhood now. We all have fun, we all compete and we all pull for each other," he continued. "We are now a group of brothers, which makes it a lot more fun."
The new closeness of the team among themselves and with the coaches does not preclude competing for a job, however, and Eason knows that.
"I'll be doing everything I can to win a job this spring but so will everyone else. It will be exciting," he closed.
And if things work out the way he plans, it will be worth the long wait.
Is Cordera the man?
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